Aila Boyd and Lisa King
Last year marked Amanda Livingston’s first full year as executive director of the Salem-Roanoke County Chamber of Commerce after having joined the chamber in October 2022.
Livingston describes her first year as being “great” and reports that she’s excited about the chamber’s growth.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time just getting out in Salem and Roanoke County, just introducing myself and meeting people, introducing the chamber and also spending a lot of time with existing chamber members, trying to engage with them and listening to what their needs are,” she said.
One area of focus, she said, has been meeting with small business owners. In fact, about 50% of the membership has fewer than five full-time employees.
“Everything I have done this past year has been focused on the value proposition. Really, when it’s time for members to write that check for their annual dues, I want them to feel really good about it,” she said. “I want them to feel like it is worth every penny, and then some. That’s my thought when I think about all of our different programs, seminars; our entire program of work, that’s my mantra if you will.”
Additionally, Livingston said all members want to know that their membership is valuable.
“That means different things to different people. Some people want to use the chamber to help grow their business, other people are really looking for networking opportunities,” she said. “In a nutshell, people want the chamber to help them with their professional goals and the goals of their companies. And so that is what we really focus on. One of our most popular series is our Business Advocacy Breakfasts, which we have had an excellent turn out for, it’s very popular. It’s really a different topic every other month. One of our more popular topics is getting elected officials in, giving our members access to them to be able to listen but also to ask questions. Our engagement with our members is up over 200% in terms of attending events and connecting with us on socials.”
As of October, Livingston said there have been 95 new members since January 2023, which is an increase of 30.8%. The chamber has a 98% retention rate, only losing eight of 403 members. Attendees for 2023 rose considerably, Livingston said, going from 622 in 2022 to 1,604 in 2023. All in all, revenues and profit are both way up in comparison. All of which makes Livingston very proud and she is looking forward to hitting the 500 mark for memberships.
Additionally, the chamber office was renovated last year. The old carpet and wallpaper were removed and replaced with new vinyl flooring and fresh paint.
The chamber is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, which Livingston described as “a big year.”
The chamber is comprised of Livingston and Lucie Benevise, the marketing coordinator. While Benevise handles the day-to-day operations, bookkeeping, marketing, socials and web design, Livingston is able be in the field.
When asked how she’s settled into her position, Livingston said, “It’s been great, I feel like I’m really starting to figure things out. It’s very dynamic. I feel like every day is different, I really enjoy it. I feel like I am kind of a people-person, so this feels like it fits my personality type. I now have one year under my belt and feel like I have a better feel for the position.”
Livingston, a Roanoke County resident, worked in real estate before joining the chamber, holding licenses in Virginia and South Carolina. While in South Carolina, she was a real estate salesperson for a development company. Prior to her work in real estate, she worked at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, Inc. for 21 years. Her title at the time of her departure was that of division vice president.
She received an undergraduate degree in speech and communications from the University of Rhode Island.