BT People

New chair brings eco-devo experience to Chamber

By Dave Yochum

Tammy Whaley'13


Tammy Whaley, the economic development manager for a 15 county region of Duke Energy Carolinas, takes over the volunteer reins of the Cabarrus Chamber of Commerce in 2015.

She said it is an “honor and privilege” to lead the 760-member chamber which has taken a hit in the wake of the departure of county mainstays like First Charter, Philip Morris and Pillowtex. Before the recession, the chamber roster was upwards of 1,000 members.

Whaley, who will work closely with Chamber CEO Patrick Coughlin, works with local economic development organizations, the N.C. Department of Commerce and various site consultants to help recruit new capital investment and jobs.

“Economic development is a team sport and I am a member of the team…talking to companies about the incredible advantages of building and growing in this area,” Whaley said.

She has a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Clemson University.

When did you join Duke?

Whaley: “I was blessed to join what used to be Duke Power in 1986 as a Distribution Engineer in Salisbury. I joined the Economic Development team about eight years ago and have loved every second of the challenging and rewarding work.”

Who would you say is your mentor?

Whaley: “There have been many people throughout various stages of my life who have significantly impacted me professionally and personally, but probably none more than my dad. I am probably where I am today and who I am today because of my dad. My dad taught me to work hard and to never give up. He taught me that “if you’re going to do it, then do it right.” He didn’t finish high school, snuck into the Army before he was 18 and was married to my mom for 50 years. We lost him two years ago to a stroke. Rather than look for mentors in my life, I have learned that it is when I focus on Jesus Christ and His life of servant leadership that I am most successful and have the most amount of influence on the world around me. It is a daily struggle, and I often fail, but my better days are those days that I try to love people like He loved us, and to make it more about Him and less about me.”

How did you get to know the Cabarrus Chamber?

Whaley: “My husband and I moved to Concord in 2003. We moved just a short distance from Huntersville to Concord because my husband had the opportunity to open a State Farm Agency in Concord and as a small business owner we believe it is important to immerse yourself in the community where you do business and where your customers live. I joined the Chamber of Commerce Board in 2009, as well as the board of Cabarrus Economic Development because I am passionate about Cabarrus County. It is an incredible place to live, work and raise children. It is the home of my husband’s business, where my children go to school and where we will likely retire. The chamber is an organization that helps businesses connect, advocates for business, and in general, makes our community stronger.”

Three goals for next year?

Whaley: “Clearly articulate the value of our membership to our members and business community; influence local, state, and federal policy to become more business friendly; and attract economic expansion and growth by leveraging our partners.”

Recruiting new members—what’s your strategy?

Whaley: No organization can be all things to all people. The Chamber needs to understand what sectors in the business community we can serve well and really go after those. For example: Business and professional services, health care, financial and insurance services, construction, engineering and architecture are all types of businesses we historically have served well.

“Typically a chamber our size will lose members after an executive transition as the organization stabilizes and finds its new strategic direction. We think we can stabilize membership quickly and start growing membership within one or two years.

“The Chamber has put together a new three-year strategic plan. With that comes new priorities for generating value and revenue; it also brings with it operational and expenditure changes. In order for the Chamber to be successful, our leadership is considering all these things as we move forward. The strategic plan is organized around four divisions; we are changing our organizational structure and budget to align with that same structure. We think that will give us a much better chance of success.”