Highland Chamber of Commerce Names Chris Swecker Interim Executive

A familiar voice, coming from a new location.

“Well, I am Chris Swecker,  I am the Interim Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce – obviously, this is sort of strange to be on this side of the mic, leaving as my previous job as a news reporter here at Allegheny Mountain radio, but yeah, here I am.”

“So again, I’m interim – our board has approved a 60 day period of review. So come mid-September, they will review what has been done in 60 days, and if they so choose, the interim title will go away.”

Chris talked about the path that led to his new position at the Highland Chamber.

“Well, I grew up here in Highland county, right in Monterey, and went all the way K through 12, here in the county. (I) Went to JMU, studied Media Arts and Design, stayed over in the valley for a while, ended up leaving the county and going to live in Washington state for a bit – I worked on Microsoft’s campus.”

“My main background, I’ve always been in media production, and as part of that, I got to work on some videos that promote Highland County – there’s a Find Your Sweet Spot, that was one of the videos – there’s a sort of a short maple documentary as well, and a scenic video. I’ve always really enjoyed promoting the county, and have done so in the past, so that’s a natural way to kind of get into this Chamber position and continue that.”

He went on, “I was hired as a marketing coordinator at the Chamber of Commerce and the previous Executive Director, Josh Umar, actually had to leave to be closer to family in Arizona, so I basically stepped into the role. And Josh, he did an amazing job – he really set an internal framework at the Chamber the past year and has really set me up well, and to kind of execute a lot of the programs and the strategic plan, hopefully set me up for success and everyone in the county for success.”

“We’re obviously a membership organization, so we really want to start highlighting our members, and doing a lot of networking opportunities, trying to make people aware of what type of organizations and businesses we have in the county. So, referring people from out of the county when they call to our members, letting people know about different activities that we have, as far as festivals and events, obviously, Hands and Harvest is a huge one that we have the second weekend in October every year. And that one, you know will be here before we know it, so that’s kind of top of mind now. Maple Festival is our biggest event that we do with the Chamber and for the county, so we’re working on getting those applications out and hopefully getting them in – Wintertide is one of our activities. So those are kind of the three big events that we have.”

“Mr. Umar left a strong framework which Chris hopes to expand and build on.”

“So the mission of the Chamber, we strive to lift up local businesses and entrepreneurs, promote Highland County, and champion economic prosperity and quality of life, so obviously, in keeping with that mission, that’s always going to be top of mind. As we move forward, I’m more of a visual person because of the background that I have, so obviously making us look as attractive as possible – definitely looking at revamping our website, trying to get more video input. We have a really strong social media presence with Facebook, looking into getting into Instagram. So that type of promotion as we, you know, move forward, especially with the younger audience, is something that I really want to focus on.”

“But as well, again, being a membership organization, trying to have excellent customer service, being open to people, being open to ideas, and just working with a lot of our partnership organizations to just extend and really try to bring people here to this county, not only as visitors, but hopefully as residents, and make us attractive as possible.”

He concluded, “I just love this county and I want to see it succeed. We have struggles and challenges just like anywhere else. But we have a lot of good things going for us and I want to highlight those assets, face the challenges, and work together with everyone to make it a reality, of this is a place where people want to come and live.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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