Apex Chamber of Commerce director resigns

aramos@newsobserver.comJanuary 17, 2014 

Graham Wilson

— Graham Wilson has left the Apex Chamber of Commerce after serving about a year as the group’s executive director.

The chamber’s two other staff members have also left in the past month – Angela Bush, who worked as manager for member relations and communications, and the business office manager.

The circumstances surrounding the departures are unclear. Chamber board members say the staffing losses create an opportunity to refocus the organization.

The changes come at a time when the chamber has recently rebuilt its strained relationship with the town.

In 2009, the chamber laid off its director of economic development after two years on the job. Apex had cut funding for the position, about $40,000.

The town then took over economic development, trying to bring new businesses to Apex and keep existing businesses.

The transition caused some tension between the chamber and the town.

In an email sent to chamber members on Monday, Chairwoman Nicole Loeffler referred to the recent staff turnover as a “time of growth.” The email described “exciting news about some recent developments at the Chamber.”

“We had some staff changes last week and the Board is working diligently to ensure a smooth transition during this time of growth. ... You will see some new, fresh faces joining us in the days ahead,” she wrote.

Management consultant Stephen Xavier began serving as interim executive director of the chamber on Monday.

Xavier has worked with various North Carolina chambers of commerce and economic development groups. He helped the Apex chamber develop its strategic plan last year.

The chamber’s doors are open and it is “business as usual,” Loeffler wrote in her letter. She did not return a call for comment.

Wilson, 58, said he will continue to live in Apex and will take a more active role in managing his family’s land in Virginia.

Wilson’s departure is abrupt. He recently started an initiative with the town to allow businesses to advertise their services on quarterly fliers mailed with utility bills. The program is designed to boost exposure for small businesses.

Apex Town Councilman Bill Jensen said he was worried the program might be delayed because of Wilson’s departure.

Wilson declined to give details about why he left the post other than to say the “timing was right.”

“My family has real estate in Virginia,” Wilson said. “I’ll be doing everything from timber sales, selling property to acquiring property. I knew I was going to be taking a lot of extended trips to Virginia, and logistically it can’t be done while I was at the chamber.”

He added: “I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in re-establishing the relationship with the town.”

Chamber board member and past chairman David Cozzarelli said Wilson did what the chamber asked him to do – focus on creating a good relationship with the town.

“We’re seeing signs Apex is willing to get more involved in economic development,” he said. “In every organization there is going to be some turnover. We’re not looking at it ... as a problem or concern but as an opportunity.”

Around the country, chambers are struggling to stay relevant, Cozzarelli said.

“This gives us the chance to reinvent ourselves,” he said. “That’s what we are hoping. We’re hoping to hire a very dynamic person that can bring that kind of focus. There is a very young demographic in Apex, and we need to match that. We need to make sure young professionals are getting what they need from us.”

Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews

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