SPECIAL TO THE TIMES DISPATCH
Josh Conlee, who recently began serving as board chairman for the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, is encouraging the organization to develop a new vision strategy in 2021.
“A strategic community plan is a roadmap for our community to rally round and work toward a singular path forward for Lawrence County,” Conlee said. “The plan will be formulated by seeking input from local leaders, businesses, schools, civic groups and many more and understand what great work is already going on in our community and what these stakeholders want in the future.”
The Chamber board discussed the steps necessary to create such a strategic plan at its regular monthly meeting Feb. 3. The group plans to organize the effort and begin forming the necessary committees in coming weeks.
Conlee noted that for the plan to succeed, it will require broad-based input from across the community.
“At its core, it is a document created by every stakeholder group in our county that organizes the existing disjointed efforts we may have in our community into one cohesive plan and vision for Lawrence County. It is my vision that the Lawrence County Chamber will project manage the formation of the plan and be the core team to organize, coordinate and execute the plan in the coming years,” he noted.
The vision strategy comes as the Chamber is building momentum after several positive announcements recently. The Chamber, working closely with the city of Walnut Ridge, helped land a new industry, 11 Point Candles, at the former Jones & Vining building near Stewart Park. In addition, the group announced the hiring of Renee Bland as executive director and Anita Davidson as office manager.
“The Chamber will benefit greatly from the expertise of both Renee and Anita,” Conlee said. “Renee brings a familiar face to the community that has been a fixture with The Times Dispatch for years. Her community relations background will bring a trusted face to the forefront for our Chamber members to interact with on a daily basis.”
“Anita brings years of financial experience to her new role with the Chamber,” he added. “Under Anita’s financial lead, members can expect a better use of Chamber financial funds and recordkeeping allowing every dollar to be spent in the most effective way for our county. Combining their skill sets will truly bring a new level of service and commitment to our members and community.”
Conlee, who is president of Lawrence Healthcare, will serve as board chair at the Lawrence County Chamber through 2021. Besides launching the strategic community plan this year, he hopes to see the Chamber raise its profile in the community.
“I believe that this is the year the Chamber reestablishes itself and proves the value added benefit the Chamber provides to our community,” he commented. “The Chamber does some excellent work behind the scenes, but we have received feedback that the community and our Chamber members do not know what the Chamber does for them. This must change this year and is one of my other priorities for 2021.”
Conlee grew up in Louisiana and Texas. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Millsaps College in Mississippi, and he has a master’s in health services administration from UAMS. He and his wife, Kailey, have a young daughter, and the family lives in Walnut Ridge.