Terri Hayes, executive director of the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce since July 2011, has settled into the greater Colorado Springs area, after growing up in Seattle, Portland and eastern Oregon, and living 16 years in Arizona (where it’s “too hot”), Southern California and several years in England.
Hayes, who lives in Black Forest and enjoys hiking and mountain biking, has a certificate from the Phoenix Institute of Technology, a bachelor’s in business administration from University of Maryland, and has nearly finished a master’s in public administration. She says she chose Colorado Springs because of the climate and the “small-town feel with all the conveniences of a larger city.”
Betty Lou, a friendly mastiff/shar-pei mix, often accompanies Hayes to the Chamber office, where the dog happily greets visitors and plays with stuffed animals.
How has your career background prepared you for your current role?
This is my first time as an executive director. However, when I was living in Arizona, I spent about 12 years with Scottsdale Jaycees [U.S. Junior Chamber] running an event call the Parada Del Sol — a month-long event with a $250,000 budget. And that really allowed me to be familiar with the ins and outs of running a nonprofit, dealing with the community, running an event, sponsorships and everything we do here today.
In my last position, I ran my own company, a franchise of 10 til 2, a staffing company that specializes in part-time placements. It’s headquartered in Aurora. So after just moving here in 2007, I instantly went into networking and joined local chambers and dove head-on into the business world, working mostly with small- to medium-sized businesses.
We are a nonprofit, but I love working with the business side of it. I was a board member with the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and ambassador with the then-Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, and also an ambassador with the Tri-Lakes Chamber, and won ambassador of the year at Tri-Lakes in April 2011.
When this position came open, my name came up in a board meeting for interim director. My goal had been to return to the nonprofit world. If I could have handpicked a position, this would be it.
What are your goals in the next year for the Tri-Lakes Chamber?
Within this year, I want to get up to 400 members at a minimum. We’re at 340 now. When I started, after some housecleaning, we were at around 200 members.
We have a fantastic board — but they are a working board. Each member is responsible for co-chairing an event, which can be time-consuming for a volunteer position. I’d like to raise enough funds with increased memberships and sponsorships so we can add staff to take on the events. That will free our board to really concentrate on vision and the future of the Chamber.
What is your favorite part of the job?
People. I love meeting with people, and I really enjoy getting to know the different individuals and their businesses. Probably my greatest joy is when I see two of my members collaborating and working together. And they look to me and are so grateful I introduced them, but I think, “This is really more of a joy for me.”
This job, I don’t ever turn it off. If I’m out socially or in the community and meet someone whom I think one of my members would benefit from knowing, then I make sure to introduce them. Some people would think that’s working all the time, but to me it’s my life — and it’s what I really enjoy. I strive to help my members see that business doesn’t have to be stodgy. Business can be fun. I want people to be excited when they see our event come up on their calendar for the day.
Describe your collaboration with other chambers in the region.
We belong to the Southern Colorado Business Partnership, which is a group made up of local chambers and local organizations who understand that collaboration regionally benefits everyone. But we have the closest working relationship with the [Colorado Springs Regional] Business Alliance and the women’s chamber. Our members get to attend each other’s business after hours [events] for reduced rates.
What are the best-kept secrets about Monument and the Tri-Lakes region?
We have community events, a Fourth of July Street Fair and a Kids Fishing Derby. The benefit is for people who want to get in front of different groups of individuals — they can choose where they want to go. Not too many chamber events get you in front of the general public, but ours do.
We are excited for 2014. We are growing, up here. Houses are selling, businesses are growing, and businesses are moving into the area. We’re getting a Discover Goodwill here, and Monday there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Penrose-St. Francis [YMCA, and Boldt Company] Tri-Lakes Community Health Village.
And District 38 is one of the best school districts in the state. It’s surprising to find out who lives in the area. We have a lot of CEOs and movers and shakers in the business world who live here. We have everything anybody could want. And in downtown Monument and Palmer Lake there are always fun new shops and restaurants going in.