Q&A With Chamber President & CEO, Beth Kigel
Florida Weekly’s special Section Palm Beach County Executive Forecast spotlighted area CEOs, Presidents, Directors, General Managers and Business Owners. Not only did the section highlight our very own President & CEO, Beth Kigel, it also recognized Chamber Members such as John Couris of Jupiter Medical Center, Jack Lighton of Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Jeffrey Welch of Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, and others! The section features a Q&A format in which the featured leaders shared their insights on current and future market conditions and trends.
WHO AM I?
FULL NAME: Beth Kigel
TITLE & COMPANY: President and CEO, Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce
YEARS WITH THE COMPANY: 3
YEARS IN PALM BEACH COUNTY FLORIDA: 12
NATURE OF BUSINESS: Nonprofit
EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, University of Florida, M.B.A., University of Central Florida
HOMETOWN: Jacksonville, FL
How did you first get into business?
My first job in business was in our family’s retail women’s clothing chain headquartered in Jacksonville. I worked nearly every aspect of the business from buying and merchandising to advertising, pricing, warehousing and distribution. This was a great opportunity at a very young age!
What are some recent trends you’ve seen in your industry?
Due to the proliferation of business associations in our region, businesses are faced with prioritizing their time and financial investments. As a result, we have seen consolidations. For us, this has been a great benefit. For the past several years, we have covered a region that includes 10 municipalities and 230 square miles. Between that and our engaged membership, we have a strong voice and continue to deliver increased value to our membership.
What lessons did you learn from the Great Recession?
We are an organization that depends to a great extent on the health of the economy. It is imperative to be sustainable and have an attitude of fiduciary responsibility.
Build necessary reserves, but at the same time be an organization that is relevant, particularly in difficult times.
What’s your vision for the future of your business?
Our vision is to continue to be an organization that our members rely upon to create the best possible business climate enabling them to grow and prosper, as well as enjoy an exceptional quality of life. This means that our engaged business leaders are advocating every day to make this a reality. Of course, we will continue to provide networking and educational opportunities, however, we continue to raise the bar in our relevance to policy makers and educational leaders on key issues so that our members know we are ALWAYS working for them.
What new products or services will you introduce next year?
There will be much value delivered in the coming year to the region, but the pre-eminent ones are: 1) Launching Northern Palm Beach County’s Business Brand that has collaboratively been worked on for the past 18 months by public and private stakeholders (Keep a watchful eye!), and 2) Launching our Small Business Navigator that will be a central point for small businesses that are either starting up, working on business growth, or facing challenges, to get pertinent information they need. This will be done in collaboration with other business associations, nonprofits and our government partners that also provide valuable services to our small businesses.
How do you expect the South Florida economy to grow?
The northern region of Palm Beach County has key opportunities in several sectors. Among them is the generation of the Innovation Corridor near and along Donald Ross Road where we have the convergence of Life Sciences and High Technology. Our leaders at FAU, Scripps and Max Planck have come together on a vision for “world class” education and research on the Jupiter campus, and just across the street, United Technologies is bringing its showcase high-tech headquarters for Intelligent Building Systems. Additionally, Riviera Beach has its waterfront development in process coupled with the growth of the marine, aerospace/defense, distribution and manufacturing industries. The latter, combined with engagement of our education partners, is expected to drive a focus on Logistics.
There is much growth happening in the healthcare and hospitality industries, as well. Of course, this all results in greater economic activity for our small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy.
What do you look for when recruiting new talent?
At our Chamber, we are always striving for excellence, but we also want to have a team that is welcoming and fun. Having the necessary skills for the specific role is important, but common to all team members are a passion for quality, a high level of integrity, out-ofthe box thinking, a team spirit, and a strong sense of customer service.
What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
Being accountable is crucial to success. Occasionally, we make mistakes or take calculated risks that don’t pan out the way we hoped or expected. This is necessary to learn and grow professionally and personally. In doing so, however, we must be accountable and not run from these mistakes, but make corrections. This builds trust and respect with those who work with you.
What do you enjoy most about the job?
One of the most important aspects of enjoying your job is enjoying the work environment. This is a Chamber filled with servant leaders. Our Board Members continue to “up the ante” on a vision that is committed to prosperity for the entire North County community. Our general members and Executive Trustee Council are highly engaged and educated about issues impacting the business climate and quality of life. Our staff’s attitude is positive and proactive to meeting member and community needs. And . . . our policy makers (which include 10 municipalities, the county, legislators, and beyond) work collaboratively with us and really care about the issues raised by our members. The northern region of Palm Beach County is growing and has a great quality of life. To lead an organization that embodies all of this is a true pleasure!
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I have a real passion for the Arts. For 18 years, ballet was my passion, with opportunities to dance competitively and spend a summer dancing in NYC. Now, it’s singing in the choir at Temple Beth El.