Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Eddie Baysden will retire effective Aug. 31.

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Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Eddie Baysden will retire effective Aug. 31.

Baysden to retire as chamber CEO

By John Henderson

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A Nash County native who has led the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce through the Great Recession has decided to retire.

Chamber CEO Eddie Baysden will retire Aug. 31.

“Eddie will continue working with the chamber as an advisor on a number of ongoing projects in business and industry and legislative matters,” said Jeffrey A. Batts, chairman of the chamber in a prepared statement. “We are very grateful for his service and happy that he will be continuing to assist us during the transition to a new CEO and our ongoing refocus on the chamber’s mission and program of work.”

In the prepared statement, Baysden said he has really enjoyed the job.

“This has truly been a labor of love, promoting the well-being of my home region and a place I dearly treasure,” Baysden said. “I began talking with past chairman Fred Turnage and members of the chamber’s Executive Committee over a year ago about a plan that would allow me to progress to full retirement. This is simply the first step in that process.”

In February, the chamber hired a consultant to guide it through a reorganization plan.

Batts said that the timing of the study coincides with the chamber’s preparation for a transition in management.

“We have a really outstanding staff, but some are also nearing retirement age,” he said at the time. “We thought it was a good time to do a study. We’ve got no time table (for the transition).”

Batts said in his statement Friday that the chamber will consider and implement the recommendations of its consultant over the next few months.

In 2010, the chamber was able to rebound from membership losses in the spring and summer 2009.

The Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Mission: Possible” membership drive added 101 members last year.

Batts said that a search committee will be formed immediately and that a new CEO will be in place by the beginning of 2012.

“The chamber is committed to focusing its operations and structuring staff so that we have full-time efforts, every day of the week, to ensure progress on our program of work, and to foster the partnerships in our community that are essential to giving our members and business partners the resources they need to succeed,” Batts said.

Batts added that Baysden has been the face of the chamber for more than a decade.

“He poured himself into his work for our members and the community, and his upbeat approach to challenges and opportunities that have come our way during his tenure have been inspiring.”

Baysden said that he and his wife, Jenny, are trying to slow down a bit, and the retirement was part of that long-range plan.

“I have made so many wonderful friends in this job and have worked with the most dedicated staff and volunteers in the business,” Baysden said. “I will stay active in the chamber and continue to be the best cheerleader for our region that I can be. I am truly appreciative of the chamber board of director’s desire to have me remain as an advisor in several areas I enjoy the most.”

Tom Betts, who was chairman of the chamber in 1986, said Friday that Baysden was a perfect fit for the CEO job.

“The best thing about Eddie was he was home-grown and was the first chamber executive we’ve ever had who came to us from Rocky Mount,” Betts said. “He understands Rocky Mount, its needs and citizens better than anyone. He knew how to match up the right person with the right project because he was a local guy all his life.”

Betts said the chamber could not have picked a better person than Baysden for the job.

“He was the best fit we have ever had,” Betts said. “When you bring guys in from outside, it takes so long to get them up to speed. Eddie hit ground running. He was already up to speed.”

Nobody could have done a better job guiding the chamber through these tough economic times, Betts said.

During his tenure, the chamber has faced challenges with the loss of some of the area’s major employers, but has overcome those and continues with more than adequate resources to fund its program of work, Batts said in his release.

A major accomplishment during the past decade is the role the chamber played, in concert with the city, in the demolition of the Tarrytown Mall and subsequent recruitment of Sam’s Club, Batts said.

“The mall suffered irreparable damage during Hurricane Floyd, and for years, remained a visual reminder of the flood’s impact on the area,” Batts said.

Under Bayden’s guidance, the chamber also led the move to restate an antiquated Land Development Code in the city, which addressed abandoned buildings, signage issues and major changes for commercial development to make them more visually appealing, Batts said in his release. Baysden also led the nationally recognized 100th anniversary celebration of the chamber, “A Night of Notables,” in 2004.

“I am so proud of the great teamwork that has enabled us to reinvigorate our involvement in a K-12 outcomes and workforce preparedness,” Baysden said. “Certainly, I am also pleased that during my time at the chamber, we made great progress in the legislative affairs arena to support our business and non-profit members, and we re-engaged the industrial community with innovative programs and forums. Just recently, we launched a major initiative to help all of our members with executive recruitment and retention.”

A Rocky Mount native, Baysden formed his own public relations firm in 1986 and serviced clients in corporate communications, special events planning and execution, sales and marketing, and corporate and nonprofit video production services.

“If there is a bright side to my stepping down from the chamber, it is that I will soon re-establish my public relations firm and get back in the game of a practice that is also very near and dear to my heart,” Baysden said. “Despite the current business climate locally and across our entire region, I have for some time been approached by organizations and others expressing an interest in my services following retirement. That is not only very gratifying professionally, but very exciting to know that in the future, I can be of value both to the chamber and others.”


Chamber leadership

Although I am sure that Mr. Baysden has done an adequate job as Chamber President, I would certainly hesitate to say he was "the best thing to happen to the Chamber." At the time of Mr. Baysden's selection to lead the Chamber, there was at least one staff person who already had several years of extraordinary Chamber leadership, proven time and again. I still cannot believe that person was not selected to lead the Chamber as President. In deference to that person, I will not indicate gender in these comments. Those who are familiar with the Chamber's staff and the years of dedication of that person will know of whom I speak. I love the South - always have and always will. However, the sometimes inability or inadequacy in relation to the promotion of a certain gender to levels of top management are inexcusable. The level of experience between someone else highly qualified to lead the Rocky Mount Chamber ten years ago and the level of experience from Mr. Baysden at that time were very obvious. I do wish the best for Mr. Baysden, I think he surely has gained Chamber experience after ten years - still below the experience that a RMCC staff member displayed those ten years ago when Mr. Baysden was selected. Please selection committee, look within this time, consider carefully.

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