The Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry has chosen someone who is quite familiar with the local business community to lead its organization.
Guy Occhiogrosso was selected by the chamber's board of directors as its next CEO, replacing interim CEO Bill Gorman. The announcement was made to its members on Tuesday, Jan. 28.
Occhiogrosso is currently the executive director of the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce, a position he has held since August 2006. He has been involved in the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber's young professional group, Bellingham/Whatcom County Tourism and the Ferndale Community Service Cooperative.
The chamber had nine qualified candidates to choose from. Occhiogrosso was selected as the next CEO for several reasons, according to Kathy Herndon, co-chair of the chamber board of directors. That includes his experience operating a local chamber.
"Guy has some great ideas for enhancing membership services," Herndon said.
Occhiogrosso said his first order of business will be to listen to the board, staff and membership before making any major decisions. As for leaving the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce, he said the organization is in good shape for long-term success.
"As much as I will miss all of the relationships here in Ferndale, I am confident the organization is in a great place and has so much to offer the community and the membership," he said.
Gorman served as interim CEO after Ken Oplinger resigned from the position to become CEO of the Santa Barbara Regional Chamber of Commerce. Herndon said the board waited until November to start the hiring process because it first wanted to determine what the membership and the community wanted from the chamber.
As the economy gets back on track, she said she expects membership to be on the upswing as newly started businesses as well as existing companies look for ways to become involved in the community. The chamber currently has around 600 members, a total similar to recent years.
Occhiogrosso will begin as the chamber's CEO on March 3. His first membership event will be the monthly Networking Breakfast on March 14; his first public event will be the March 18 Chamber Speaker Series featuring Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville and Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws.