MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The president and CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber, Beverly Robertson, announced Thursday she plans to leave the Chamber in December 2022 to return to a business she started with her husband.
The Greater Memphis Chamber Board of Directors unanimously voted Thursday to name Chief Economic Development Officer Ted Townsend as President & CEO Beverly Robertson’s successor.
“Beverly Robertson is an incredibly tough act to follow, but if there’s anyone who can carry forward her work to make Memphis more prosperous for all, it’s Ted Townsend.” Doug Browne, chairman of the Chamber’s board and president of Peabody Hotels & Resorts. “Ted has both the passion and the economic development experience to make Memphis one of the fastest-growing and prosperous cities in the nation."
Since stepping into the role in 2018, Robertson has led the Chamber through two major crises – the death of former president & CEO Phil Trenary and the COVID-19 pandemic – and reached two major milestones. In 2021, the 184-year-old Chamber celebrated its best year ever for economic development and – as a result of her extensive fundraising efforts – its best financial year ever.
“My tenure at the Chamber has occurred in the midst of protest, politics and the pandemic,” said Robertson, who is the Chamber’s first Black president and CEO. “I stepped into the organization at a critical time. This work was more of a mission than a job. But my administration has been marked by inclusion – on our staff, in our community, and in the diverse voices we’re listening to – and by an entrepreneurial spirit that has led me to launch initiatives that others may have never considered."
Robertson said she plans to spend much of her remaining time raising $10 million to $15 million to fund the Chamber’s work, and especially its economic development work, which includes career preparation.
Townsend said his vision is to make the Chamber the No. 1 economic development organization in the nation and to make Greater Memphis a hub of inclusive growth.
“Memphis has momentum and it’s about to get even better,” Townsend said. “We have fully recovered the jobs we lost in the pandemic, we just had our best year ever for economic development, and we have more projects in our pipeline than ever before. A tsunami of opportunity is coming, and when it does, the Chamber will be leading the charge to make sure this prosperity is felt across Memphis.”
The Chamber said that work is already underway, thanks to Townsend, who played a key role in securing the single largest investment in Tennessee history in 2021: Ford and SK Innovation’s $5.6 billion investment in a 5,800-job electric vehicle manufacturing campus near Memphis known as BlueOval City.
A native Memphian, Townsend has more than a decade of economic development experience.