Bill Jones knows a thing or two about running a chamber of commerce. The first professional to run the Branson, Mo., chamber of commerce, Jones saw that city become the mega-destination of the South. He took his talents later to places such as Moore County in Texas, Rosenberg, Richmond and Bonham.
Now, Jones has turned his full attention to Melissa in an effort to help the city grow and prosper commercially. He was hired as the Melissa Area Chamber of Commerce’s newest executive director on Jan. 6 so he is still getting his feet wet. Despite getting to know the city and the job, Jones sat down with the Tribune to give his take on the job ahead.
What is your plan in the early going?
I see that the Chamber has probably not gotten to the position that it needs to get to in this town. The Chamber needs to be the heartbeat of the town; that’s [who] people think has all the information and I’m not sure we have it. I hope to build a more effective and efficient chamber of commerce and get our funds to where we can expand and provide the services we need to be providing. I hope to have the cooperation of the city and the help of the Economic Development Corporation in growing the area.
What do you need to do long-term to get Chamber growth where you want it?
We need membership. We have some administrative problems that we need to straighten out. We’ve got to reach out to the area — McKinney and areas like that — to pick up membership. There aren’t a lot of businesses [in town] to support the things we need to be doing. Hopefully, we can pick up some outside memberships.
How aggressive do you plan on being pitching Melissa to new businesses?
Very aggressive. I moved here, it attracted me. I think I can be a good salesman and a good representative of the community; it’s a great community, and it has a lot of potential. Maybe it’s not where it needs to be, but hopefully I can help the EDC and the city get it to that position.
Is retail growth attainable for Melissa within a year or two?
I think it is. RaceTrac is the newest business in town of any magnitude, and it looks like it has been super successful. That should be a good example to other businesses to know that there is actually a market here. There’s certain formulas for demographics, and we have to do a better job of selling those demographics and convincing people this would be a good location for retail development.
Is Melissa a good demographic for a certain size company?
When I was in Bonham we had a small-town study done and it came up with demographics; how much people spend and other towns around the United States with our demographics. I was told that maybe Melissa has done a study similar to that. One of the biggest drawbacks that Melissa has right now is that it’s close to McKinney and this is where all the people have to go to shop. There are a lot of services that Melissa is way past needing for the number and type of people we have here.
Does it hurt Melissa being in such close proximity to Anna with it’s retail?
Anna got a head start [on Melissa], and it probably should have been in reverse. I think Melissa has potential to reach Anna [in commercial development] and surpass it.
What needs to be done to get the Chamber where you want it?
The Chamber needs to become a better and more efficient organization to help with future development. There are some things we’ve got to do administratively almost before we can do anything [else.] We’ve got to get more funds in the Chamber before it can actually grow, but it goes right along with trying to create a better image and bring in more business.