‘Flight’ Takes Center Stage at Chamber Luncheon

By Andy Meek

Southwest Airlines provided everyone in the nearly 1,000-person crowd at the Greater Memphis Chamber’s annual chairman’s luncheon Tuesday, Dec. 10, with a voucher worth $100 to use on a flight.

Susan Hadley Maynor of the Greater Memphis Chamber distributes vouchers for Southwest Airlines at the Chairman’s Luncheon.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“Taking flight” was a theme of the chamber’s confab this year, which the Southwest promotion helped underscore. The popular carrier’s presence also was timely, since it launched new flights in Memphis about a month ago.

The chamber itself also is taking flight, in a manner of speaking. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was on hand to tout the chamber’s creation of its Chairman’s Circle – a group of more than 100 members representing Memphis businesses who’ve helped raise more than $2.5 million for the chamber.

The new group is helping the chamber rely less on public funding by taking control of its destiny, with area business leaders now having even more of a stake in setting the chamber’s direction and priorities. The more than 100 members of the chairman’s circle, Haslam said, represent businesses with some 88,000 collective employees across Memphis.

And attendees at the luncheon were told the group already has raised the more than $2.5 million.

“When Memphis has a chamber lunch, they do it big,” Haslam said from the stage in The Peabody hotel’s grand ballroom, surveying the crowd and referring to the typical spectacle associated with the luncheon. “More people are leaders in Memphis than in any other community I know.”

This year’s event included new chamber Chairwoman Leigh Shockey in a humorous video threatening – really, only attempting – to dunk on Memphis Grizzlies guard/forward Quincy Pondexter, whom she bid farewell by calling him Marc Gasol.

Shockey is the CEO of Drexel Chemical Co., which her father founded in 1972. There, she developed a focus on international business before taking the reins as CEO.

Drexel manufactures and distributes a variety of different agricultural chemical product labels.

Shockey told The Daily News last month the chamber already has seen a high level of interest from prospective candidates to succeed chamber president and CEO John Moore, who is stepping down effective Jan. 3 after eight years with the chamber.

Moore bid a farewell of sorts to the crowd at the annual luncheon this week.

“I was chairman of the chamber board when we came up with the concept of an annual chairman’s luncheon, and it’s been a huge success, a significant driving force in creating our unique Memphis brand and a major event that sells out earlier every year,” Moore wrote in the luncheon’s program. “It’s a special ‘Memphis thing’ and one in which we all come together to celebrate what’s remarkable about our community and to envision an even brighter future.

“With the official launch of the Chairman’s Circle, we’ve achieved what we said we would do: deliver a three-dimensional organization that supports its members, attracts new jobs and leads Greater Memphis to success with transformational leadership.”