St. George Area Chamber of Commerce announces new leader

Local resident, small business owner and economic development visionary Don Willie leads the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce through hard times as its president and CEO | Photo courtesy of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — From a long and talented list of applicants, the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce has chosen a new president and CEO to take over the helm of guiding businesses throughout the region.

Local resident, small business owner and economic development visionary Don Willie has been selected as the new president and CEO for the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce | Photo courtesy of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce, St. George News

Sometime in mid-January, St. George resident Don Willie will replace the chamber’s current leader, Pam Palermo, beating out more than 50 interested in the job.

“Don is an incredible young man,” Palermo said. “He is the perfect choice to be my successor. His resume just blows my mind.”

Willie has served as the executive director of Dixie State University’s Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, director of the Zions Bank Business Resource Center along with acting as managing director at the World Trade Center of Utah overseeing programming, outreach and operations. Willie also owns and operates several small businesses and has acted as a business and political strategist.

Palermo said Willie will bring a wealth of business experience and vision to the job.

“Don really knows everything about starting a business and what it takes to bootstrap and become a successful entrepreneur,” she said.

St. George Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Pam Palermo accepts an award from the County Commission, St. George, Utah, Dec. 3, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Willie is not a new face at the chamber’s office, having been a collaborator and contributor to its economic development efforts for several years

Willie said he’s honored to be chosen as the new leader of such a strong chamber of commerce.

“It really plays an important role in economic development and supporting our businesses,” he said. “I look forward to many opportunities to continue to strengthen our economy here and put in lots of work ahead.”

With a background in economic development and business services, Willie takes a hands-on approach to help businesses flourish.

“It not just about supporting businesses but ideas,” he said. “From day one its about taking the ideas and forming them into businesses which creates economic diversity, strengthens job growth and increases wages. All of these components have been at the core of what I’ve been doing here. I will continue to support and build on that at the chamber of commerce.”

With strong growth occurring in the greater St. George area, the chamber is poised to play a critical role in building economic vibrancy. Willie believes he has what it takes to get the job done. The key, he said, is to balance bringing in new businesses with some of the problems associated with rapid growth.

“This is always the million-dollar question; how do you manage growth,” Willie said. “We’ve been fortunate because this is such a popular destination with so many opportunities. Although we’ve seen economic growth, we still need to focus our efforts on economic diversity and improving wages.”

Willie added that the chamber can play a strong role in achieving these goals, but it will also take other partnerships to create the business climate he has in mind.

“We live in a pivotal time,” Willie said. “The chamber is in a unique position to both provide support to advocate for the needs of the business community. I look forward to the tremendous opportunities ahead as we ensure that the St. George area remains a world-class destination to live, work and play.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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