Ericka S. Floyd has served at the Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce for 15 years, and as the Executive Director of the Chamber for the past 4. Floyd sat down for an Editors Office Interview to discuss her role, and the changes she has seen in Clarendon County.
So, how did you get started in the Chamber of Commerce?
I got started fifteen years ago as an information specialist assisting then Director Jane Powell part-time with Dawn Griffith. When Jane left, Dawn got offered the Directors position, and I remained as her right-hand woman. We worked really well together, in 2016 I took over as Director. Basically, as the Director, I am in charge of the day-to-day tasks of the Chamber.
Is it you alone in the office?
I also have Tiffany Myers in the office with me, serving as the Director of Tourism. She promotes the county, and I promote the businesses within the county.
When did you become the Executive Director?
In 2016. I actually came back on April 1, twenty days before the Striped Bass Festival.
So, you really had to hit the ground running.
I just stepped back in to what I was used to.
Basically you serve as a jack-of-all-trades for the County.
That’s right. I have to know about the history of the county, as well as the businesses and operations stationed here.
Jason Montgomery is the president of the Chamber, what is the difference between his role and yours?
The President is a volunteer position, who serves on the board that directs us. I run the day-to-day, and the board of directors serve as an entity that makes the big decisions.
Similar to the Chairman of a school district and the superintendent.
In the past 15 years you have served at the Chamber, what are some of the biggest changes you have seen?
The biggest change has just been the growth experienced in Clarendon County. We have seen a lot of businesses come into the area, and a couple have left, but we have really blossomed over the past 15 years. One of my favorite examples is Ms. Jennifer at Lucy’s Bakehouse. I met her for the first time at City Laundry, and she has now started her dream job of opening a restaurant. Merle Norman is another great example. They started as a cosmetics studio and have transformed into a full-service salon. Businesses grow and change and its great to watch.
The Chamber also operates as a great web for businesses to connect and support each other, right?
Yes, we are a networking community. Last year we were actually noticed for our work as a networking group. People can come and connect and get to know each other through our events.
What would you say, from the perspective of a new business, are some of the biggest pros of joining the Chamber?
We give businesses a lot of promotion. We also operate as the tourism center, so we promote all Clarendon County business. However, we promote chamber members first. For example, if someone calls for a realtor, we will promote real estate agents that are chamber members first. Same with hotels, restaurants, and any other business under our umbrella. Becoming a chamber member is really just a great way to show that you want to become a part of our community.
Tell me about some of the events that the Chamber puts on throughout the year.
Every January we have our chamber retreat, which is a way for businesses to connect with each other. During this, businesses and delegates from the county come and present to the group. Then, we roll straight into the Striped Bass Festival, which is our biggest event. Unfortunately we had to cancel that this year due to COVID-19, but we are excited to bring it back in 2021. Following the festival, we slide directly into tourism season, where we promote the lake side of our county. Then we have the annual dinner and fishing tournaments in the fall, as well as various other smaller events scattered throughout the year.
I know I got to know a lot of important people and faces throughout Clarendon at the Chamber Retreat. If you look at that network, it really does show as the backbone of the county. I mean, without business, you don’t have much to go on.
And a lot of people have great ideas, and they’re not sure how or who to talk to about those ideas. So the retreat is a great way for them to facilitate those conversations. People can come together and share ideas, and great things come from that.
So, moving on to more recent events, how has the chamber adjusted to the pandemic?
The biggest thing that has hit us has been cancelling the Striped Bass Festival. We also had to continue promoting businesses that stayed open throughout the pandemic. We gave our attention to chamber members and nonmembers alike, because during times like these you have to work together. From what I could see, however, everyone worked together and came through on the other side.
You hear a lot that the world kind of got put on pause, but businesses still have to generate revenue. That is a tall hurdle to jump. Is that kind of where the Green Ribbon Initiative came from?
It is. We were trying to find a way to promote businesses during this time, so we looked at what other chambers were doing throughout the United States. A lot of them were doing “Back in Business” programs, but many of our businesses never closed. We wanted to create a way for our network to let citizens know that they were open. From this, we had the idea to hang Green Ribbons on businesses throughout the County that sent out a message of “We’re Open.”
And the green ribbons really solidified a visual network of businesses that were holding strong through the coronavirus pandemic.
And we have actually received calls from the public asking about these green ribbons which is a direct sign that they are doing their intended job. Green for growth and prosperity which is exactly what we are going to do; grow and prosper through all of this.
How do you think the future looks after this pandemic?
It’s Clarendon County and we always prevail. We will come together and grow through it.
I wish I had your determination sometimes, I’ve been working in Clarendon for a year and I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing some days.
I feel that way too sometimes. Luckily, I have an incredible network of businesses that I can lean on for assistance.
Last question, what is your favorite part of working as the Director?
You never know what to expect, what opportunities you're going to get, what phone calls you’re going to receive, or what the next day will hold.