The Greater Memphis Chamber has named an interim president a month after President and CEO Phil Trenary was shot and killed in downtown Memphis. Beverly Robertson, Former Executive Director of the National Civil Rights Museum, is the first woman to lead the Greater Memphis Chamber.
Beverly Robertson says she’s ready to hit the ground running. But she can’t do it alone.
You know the saying, it takes a village to raise a child. Robertson says the same applies to Memphis. That it’s going to take a village to make Memphis better, and keep it growing.
“It speaks a lot to the Chamber recognizing the value of diversity and the value that women bring to the table,” says Robertson.
When we started our interview with Robertson, she talked about being grateful for the opportunity but admitted, it’s bittersweet.
“I will never be able to live up to Phil, but what I can do, is build on the legacy that he established,” says Robertson.
Robertson replaces the late Phil Trenary who was shot and killed in downtown Memphis last month. Three people were arrested and charged with his murder.
Robertson says she already has a vision. She wants to work from the inside out, to attract new business and retain existing businesses in Memphis and Shelby County. Robertson says poverty, transportation, and job training are a few things Memphis needs to address in order to do that.
“Some of the issues that affect our community are those very same issues that stop companies from wanting to relocate here,” says Robertson. “Clearly the Chamber is engaged in attracting and retaining business. And I think for me it’s important for us to fundamentally deal with some of those environmental issues that serve as obstacles.”
Robertson would also like to hold vocational fairs so more people can be trained for higher paying jobs.
“We have job fairs, but we don’t talk about the trades, the plumbing, the electricians, the airline mechanics who make lots of money and it creates wonderful living wages so that people can take care of their families,” says Robertson.
Robertson says a strong workforce attracts businesses. And attracting and retaining business is the Chamber’s main role in the community. She believes the Chamber, businesses, government, and community should all work together for the greater good.
“If you have a will to do it, there is a way to make it happen.”
She hopes to meet with city and county leaders soon, as well as business owners and local agencies to discuss plans for the future.
Robertson retired from the National Civil Rights Museum in 2014 after 17 years.