WINK was fortunate to get a question-answer session with the busy Jim Price, incoming chairman of the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce. Jim is the Director of Technical Innovation at Iconex Morristown.
We take a dive into the background preparations for his new, volunteer role.
What committees did you serve on while preparing for the Chamber chairman role?
This one is a bit unusual; typically, the chairman serves as the Vice Chair of the Organizational Development Committee prior to taking the top position. Although I have been serving on the board of directors for four years now, I have not held a Vice Chair position.
This was a function of all of the work going on at Iconex. during these last four years. While serving as plant manager at Iconex’s largest plant, Iconex became ‘Iconex’ by breaking off from NCR. Iconex bought and integrated three competitors, moved and expanded our Morristown warehouse, expanded Morristown plant operations, installed two new presses in Morristown, and about a hundred other things I can’t think of right now.
However, I felt convicted that I needed to do more for the Chamber because the Chamber has been such a great resource to me and to Iconex….so I met with Chamber leadership and expressed my interest in serving as Chairman of the Board.
The leadership was enthused about my offer because it’s hard to find representatives from the manufacturing segment of the membership serve in the role of chairman, so they worked with me and my schedule to help me get a crash course in the committee activity and bring me up to speed on Chamber programs. 2019 was a great year to prepare.”
Did you learn anything that surprised you, or impressed you, while serving on the board?
While serving on the board, I have learned that our Chamber is seen as a model to many other chambers throughout the state. The level of community involvement and activity driven by our Chamber rivals or exceeds chambers of cities much larger than ours. The success we have shown in attracting businesses to this area, supporting growth of existing businesses and winning development grants to further our industrial growth proves we are punching well above our weight class.
How long have you been involved with the Chamber?
When you agree to serve on the board of directors, you are committing to four years of service. I, however, put myself on a six-year plan, due to volunteering for the chairperson position for my fifth year, which will cause me to have a sixth year serving as a “past chair.”
How does the Chamber play an integral role in workforce development?
The Chamber and its members were involved in the development of the proposal that led to the GIVE Grant award to TCAT. The Chamber and its members support the Future Ready Expo (https://www.futurereadyexpo.com) which directly focuses on our children and getting them thinking about their work futures. For years before these two programs, the Chamber worked with the school system and local industry to assist in the development of teacher externships and student intern programs. Both of these programs are still in place and continue to grow. Prior to the establishment of the GIVE Grant, TCAT had received the LEAP grant which involved input from Chamber leadership and members. The Chamber also maintains close ties with the Workforce Development Department at Walters State. In addition to this, each year the incoming chairperson has an overarching goal or theme that steers the efforts of the committees for that year.
What is a goal for the Chamber in 2020?
There is a great need for a larger and better trained workforce in the Morristown area. The focus I have set for the chamber board and vice chair committees is exactly workforce development for 2020. We need to grow our workforce by educating our children with the knowledge and skills needed to join our workforce. We need to retain these new workers by educating them that good, lifelong careers exist in the Morristown area. We need to encourage building affordable housing to enable workers to live in the community where they work and not have long commutes from outside the Morristown area.
This community also needs to have “fun things to do” when people are not at work to attract and retain people in our workforce.
The Craft Beer Festival is a great example of one such activity that the Chamber led. The areas outlined above are the 2020 vision for my term as chairperson and we will be structuring our efforts to enhance each of these areas.
Has the Chamber in general, or a specific effort by the Chamber, been of direct benefit to your company?
The Chamber is a tremendous resource for local businesses. With over 600 members, the Chamber is an excellent networking hub to connect you to whatever you need. I can’t count the number of times I have called someone at the Chamber and said, “I need X” and they have always had an answer.
The Chamber facilitated connections for Iconex with government and private agencies that resulted in seven figure benefits to our business. If you aren’t leveraging this Chamber, you are missing out.
Will you share a few personal facts with WINK readers?
My wife, Kris, and I met when we were 16 years old. We dated until age 21, when we married, and we will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in 2020.
We have two children, both are out of college and working in the Morristown area.
I currently serve on the Walters State Technical Education Advisory Board and also as a trustee on the Walters State Community College Foundation.
So, what do you do for fun?
This may sound a bit strange, but I really enjoy spending time with my wife. Beside being my wife, Kris is my best friend and she is a lot of fun whether we are doing the dishes or going for a walk, we are always laughing with each other. Kris loves dogs and we have four which help keep us young.
My favorite hobby is road cycling. I truly enjoy getting out on the backroads of our beautiful community and just riding. The scenery, the solitude, and the exercise really recharges me.