By LYNETTE HAALAND
Four Points News
The West Austin Chamber of Commerce is nearly doubling its footprint while eyeing membership growth with its new leadership team Sean Ziari, chairman, and Morgan Briscoe, president.
“I am passionate about supporting the future of this area, both short and long term,” said Ziari, who took over as chairman in January succeeding Ray Freer.
“It’s a great environment to be a part of,” said Briscoe, the organization’s first president who began her role in January. “Like the people living in the communities we serve, our member businesses truly want to help one another succeed.”
Currently, the West Austin Chamber has just over 130 members and has a goal of 200 members by the end of 2017. It would like to grow by another 100 or so members by the end of 2019.
The chamber leaders think this growth is attainable as the organization continues to widen its footprint and gain more visibility through increased advocacy in member issues such as transportation and signage, employer challenges and education.
The Chamber is working on developing a Four Points Task Force in collaboration with Austin District 6 City Councilman Jimmy Flannigan. The coalition is scheduled to kick off this summer and will address area business and residential concerns in strategic alignment with those identified by the Austin City Council. Once completed, it will be the first of its kind in the city, Briscoe said.
In addition to the chamber’s monthly luncheons, networking events and ribbon cuttings, the new leadership team is working adding a variety of programming including a West Austin Working Women’s networking group to provide networking, educational and volunteer opportunities. Other plans include a co-working group, brown bag lunch series, community education panels, and collaboration with area schools.
The chamber is hosting a “Wild West Austin” Top Golf Tournament in April, and are planning a Taste of West Austin for 2018.
Such programming will “allow our members to share their skills, experience and learnings with one another and with the community as a whole,” said Ziari. “And when we combine our area retailers and restaurants in such efforts, it’s a win-win for all involved.”
Founded in 2010 under the name Four Points Chamber of Commerce, the rebrand started in the summer of 2016 with the new West Austin Chamber name and expanded footprint.
“The business and residential growth in the area, plus the opportunity for us to efficiently serve neighboring business corridors (led to the rebranding),” said Freer, current board member.
Briscoe’s passion for the chamber of commerce model was gained as a member in the Chicago market, where she was involved with over a dozen area chambers in various roles as a restaurant marketer.
“I saw what an essential part of the community chambers were,” Briscoe said. “And I also saw what an important part of a company’s business plan they were.”
Briscoe moved from Chicago to Austin seven years ago and she and her husband have three young boys. She founded the Steiner Ranch Moms and Tots meetup group. Prior to becoming president of the West Austin Chamber, Briscoe worked with the organization in a marketing function from 2013 – 2015.
Ziari’s interest in education — both in children and in the business community — drove him to accept the role as chairman. He is also currently serving as president of the board for the Leander ISD Educational Excellence Foundation.
Ziari is a native Austinite and he and his wife have three daughters in Four Points. He is a financial services professional with New York Life Securities.
“The heart of our organization continues to be our members. We have always—and always will—put them first,” Briscoe said. “We are open to ideas, suggestions and inspiration. That is both the beauty and the challenge of a small organization.”
Membership director Linda Vezina is working with Brisco on the chamber’s operational changes and upgrades. Both Vezina and Briscoe are local residents and are staffers of the chamber.
“We have some back-end goals to work through including improved member management, marketing and communication tools. This will increase our efficiencies and make for an even better member experience, ”said Vezina.
Membership to the West Austin Chamber is open to all area businesses or businesses looking to work with customers in the area. Currently, the chamber is running a special for home-based business organizations and restaurants.
For more information on the West Austin Chamber, visit www.westaustinchamber.org