A veteran of the local business and economic development scene will guide the Greater Memphis Chamber as it seeks to execute an ambitious economic and community growth plan.
Phil Trenary, the former president and CEO of Pinnacle Airlines, has been selected as the chamber’s new president and CEO.
“When people ask what the chamber is about, it really comes down to this: the chamber is devoted to breaking the cycle of poverty,” said Trenary, who begins his new role June 1. “You break the cycle of poverty through the creation and retention of jobs, and we’re going to do that by educating our young people and making sure they can make a good living, increasing the quality of life that attracts and keeps people here and having public policy that supports all of that.”
The Chamber’s Executive Committee of the Board of Directors selected Trenary after hiring consulting firm the Centre Group to conduct a nationwide search for a replacement for John Moore, who retired in January as the head of Memphis and Shelby County’s leading economic development agency.
Trenary established deep roots in the Memphis business community after arriving here in 1997 and serving as the president and CEO of Pinnacle Airlines, taking the regional airline from a small private company to a publicly traded firm with its headquarters in Memphis, generating over $1 billion in annual revenue.
Shortly after Trenary left Pinnacle, the airline slid into bankruptcy and moved its headquarters from One Commerce Square Downtown to Minneapolis.
But Trenary, 59, has been deeply engaged in civic-focused work since retiring from the airline in 2011, including providing consulting to the University of Memphis, Emerge Memphis and Shelby Farms Park.
Trenary has served as a guiding hand and top recruiter during the creation of the Chairman’s Circle, a chamber effort that was launched in 2012 and sought to recruit 100 business leaders over an 18-month period to donate $25,000 each and delve into a wide range of community development efforts. The Chairman’s Circle currently has 103 members.
“The goal was 100 in 18 months and we crossed the line in 10 months,” said Trenary. “That was the amazing part.”
Trenary has also been instrumental to the work of five chamber committees focused on vocational education, entrepreneurship, greenways, long-range planning and pre-kindergarten education.
“Phil’s leadership has positioned the chamber to break the cycle of poverty by creating new jobs and working to provide a high quality of life for all Memphians,” said Leigh Shockey, chair of the board of the Greater Memphis Chamber and CEO of Drexel Chemical.
Trenary said the passion and teamwork for transforming Memphis that he has witnessed from a broad swath of the community, from grassroots to corporate boardrooms, attracted him to the position.
“This is really an exciting time in Memphis when you think of all the wonderful things coming together,” said Trenary. “We’ve always had a lot of people who cared passionately about Memphis, but what I’m seeing now is people coming together with the common goal of moving Memphis forward. I call it tearing down the silos.”