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Interview with Tonia Howell, President, Arlington Chamber of Commerce

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This month’s “Who Is” interview is with Tonia Howell, President of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. Here’s an abbreviated, and slightly paraphrased, recap of that interview. Watch the video for the full content.

CORPRO:

What do you? What goes on here at the Chamber of Commerce.

Tonia:

The chamber’s main purpose is to be an advocate for the community and specifically for the business community. We monitor legislation, interact with banks and connect business with lots of resources such as local government. We also plan and organize many community events throughout the year.

CORPRO:

Is the chamber of commerce part of city government?

Tonia:

No, the City of Arlington is a separate government entity but we have a very strong partnership with the city and often collaborate on projects for the community. The Chamber of Commerce is a 501c (6) non-profit with a board of directors.

CORPRO:

What does a typical day at the office look like for you?

Tonia:

There is a lot of administrative work that includes membership records, data research, recording activities and marketing efforts for future events. In addition to office work, there are meetings to attend, phone calls to make and events to attend. Events may include ribbons cuttings, luncheons or community events such as the Fourth of July fireworks or Christmas on the Square.

CORPRO:

What did you do prior to assuming the role of Chamber President?

Tonia:

Just prior to this, I worked as a consultant for non-profit organizations and before that, in marketing and fundraising for a local large private school. During those 12 years, I did a lot of marketing work, and also helped other organizations with their marketing and administrative activities.

CORPRO:

What lifelong career path brought you to this position?

Tonia:

I began by earning a degree in Secondary Education with an emphasis on speech communication and a major in history. I am very interested in history. I also spent eleven years at a Christian school as their Marketing Director. Three and a half years were spent working with a medical device company and most recently I have served as an independent consultant again. My consulting activities brought me to the Arlington Chamber where I was asked to fill the vacated president position. As a lifelong Arlington resident, and having spent my entire life preparing for the duties of this position, it was an easy decision.

CORPRO:

Please tell us a little about yourself and how you spend your time when you’re away from the office.

Tonia:

My husband is an accountant. We live only minutes from the chamber office, in Arlington. I have two grown children and each of them have two kids of their own which range in age from 4 to 12. I love to spend my weekends hanging out with my family and being with my four grandchildren. My favorite position and title is “Nonna.”

CORPRO:

If you look around, you can see Arlington is growing. What projects are going up now and what do you anticipate Arlington looking like in 8-10 years from now?

Tonia:

People used to comment that Arlington is waay out there but since the Hwy 385 corridor was completed the growth has been fast. Many don’t realize that you can drive from Arlington to Collierville in 15-20 minutes. We currently have over 300K sq ft of commercial development in progress and several more already approved, funded and ready to start. None of that is high rise buildings. Among the most known is the new Kroger store at the corner of Milton Wilson and Airline Rd. That project is still going to happen. Another project is the West Tn Veterans Home. We’re very excited that all obstacles have been cleared for the Baptist Emergency Room project to be built in Arlington. In addition to all the commercial projects, we anticipate the addition of about 500 new residential homes. That will certainly boost our current population of 14 thousand residents.

CORPRO:

Let me close with a tough but fun question. Assuming we will take care of all your current personal and professional responsibilities, what would you do if you had one week to do anything you wanted to do? While I’m sure you would love to have your husband or grandchildren with you, please try to make your answer be 100% selfish.

Tonia:

I would remodel or decorate my home. Like most people, projects at home are often slow to happen due to other responsibilities and costs. My accountant husband is keenly aware of that. Since money is no object, I would get a decorator to come in to help me design. We would build a pergola, install built-ins and bring in lots of new decorating accessories.