By Yvonne Gonzalez
The Maricopa Chamber of Commerce is rebuilding with its sixth director in eight years.
Its newest executive director is a 2013 graduate of Maricopa High School who says she’s focused on retaining members, streamlining operations and improving the chamber’s image, among other goals.
“The more up-to-date and fresh we are, the more appealing we’ll be to the community,” said Sara Troyer, formerly the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship marketing and programs development director. “A lot of what I’m trying to do is really strip the chamber down and build it back up.”
Troyer is pursuing a certification in nonprofit management and a bachelor’s degree in public administration online at Southern New Hampshire University.
Troyer said since her April 1 start at the chamber, she’s been working on streamlining office processes and finding areas to save money.
Chamber members are now able to take discounted or free business development classes at the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship, she said, and chamber events get more participation.
The chamber is working to get member feedback on services. Troyer said a recent survey found successful networking events were a top priority among members.
She said the chamber is working to design programs that fit what most members want.
“We can’t do everything for everyone, but we can make connections to place them with someone that offers them,” she said.
The chamber added six members in April. Annual dues above standard membership recently rose to $500, $1,000, $2,000 and $5,000 annually for various levels.
“We never want to raise our dues again,” Troyer said.
Troyer said retention has been better in the last two months compared to years past.
“All the people who were going to renew in the last two months, we’ve retained 95 percent of them,” she said, noting previous numbers as low as 60 percent.
Troyer is the youngest and latest in a string of leaders for the chamber.
Theresa Kingery became the executive director in 2006. She and four board officials resigned at the end of 2010.
The job was unfilled until March 2012 when Maricopa business owner Jim McMichael stepped in as president.
By September of that year, McMichael agreed to resign at the request of board members. He said at the time that there were philosophical differences with board leaders who asked him to step down.
The role was again vacant after interim president John Kennedy was arrested in December 2012 on charges of burglary and stalking.
The chamber board hired Dave Moss as its president and Lewis as the chief operating officer in May 2013, shortly after the city pulled $40,000 from annual chamber funding.
Online tax records for that year show no payments for Moss, but Lewis earned $40,000 from the chamber.
Tax data show revenue in 2008 reached $214,702, and then decreased sharply for three years to less than $95,000 before starting an upswing in 2012. There was a slight drop in revenue from 2013 to 2014, according to the most recent data available.
Revenue hasn’t exceeded $120,000 since 2010.
Troyer said she’s lived in Maricopa for 12 years, and while the recession played a role in the slump, she said politics may have played a role from 2009 to 2012.
“I’m sure that some of that was due to unhappy people or people who were just sick of the politics,” she said.
She said she wants to move forward from that history.
“I know that the reputation at the time was not the best,” she said. “I don’t know the extent of that.”
Lewis was the president and chief executive officer when she resigned earlier this year.
Troyer said Lewis built great momentum for the chamber heading into 2016, and she wants to keep that going.
“2016 will be a great fiscal year for us,” she said.
Salaries for 2016 will account for about $44,000 in expenses for the chamber.
Troyer and bookkeeper Christy Fette are the only paid employees, with Troyer working 40 hours per week and Fette putting in about six hours each week.
Troyer says she’s working to update the website in her spare time, also a cost-saving measure.
“I code; I’m able to build the website myself,” she said. “I’ve been doing that on my evenings and weekends so we can save a lot on hosting fees. It’s been a lot of work, but I think it’s going to be helpful.”
This story appeared in the June issue of InMaricopa.