Wilson retiring; Chamber looks for new CEO

Wilson retiring; Chamber looks for new CEO

November 17th, 2011 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Tom Edd Wilson, a former banker who has headed the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce for nearly a decade, will step down as the Chamber's president and CEO in early 2013 after his replacement is picked.

Wilson, 71, told Chamber members Wednesday he is planning to retire from the Chamber in the next year or so after a new president is picked and his successor transitions into office.

"Over the next year, I will dedicate myself to several projects aimed at positioning the Chamber and Chattanooga for the future," Wilson said in a statement Wednesday. "I'm very proud of what we've done as the community's leading business association and economic development organization."

Wilson was paid $272,898 to head the Chamber of Commerce in 2009, according to the most recent IRS financial filings for the Chamber's non-profit foundation. The economic development arm of the local Chamber receives more than $1 million a year in public funding from the city of Chattanooga, Hamilton County, TVA and EPB, and the business association also is supported by more than 1,500 business members.

Tom Griscom, a former Times Free Press publisher and public relations consultant who was chairman of the Chattanooga Chamber two years ago, is leading a seven-member transition committee that will conduct a national search for a CEO.

"Our committee has a tough assignment," Griscom said in announcing the search panel. "It's impossible to replace a leader like Tom Edd Wilson, but one of his greatest accomplishments is that the Chamber is well positioned to continue to produce outstanding results after his retirement."

Under Wilson's leadership at the Chamber since 2002, Chattanooga recruited the $1 billion Volkswagen assembly plant and the Chamber worked on 113 other job-creation projects that collectively added 13,000 jobs to the region.

However in the past nine years since Wilson joined the Chamber, total employment in metropolitan Chattanooga declined by 4,500 jobs, or 1.9 percent, primarily because of the severe employment downturn during the national recession in 2008 and 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mike St. Charles, an attorney with Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel who is now chairman of the Chamber, promised a rigorous national search for a new head.

"Everyone in our community has benefited from Tom Edd's work," St. Charles said.

Wilson, a 35-year banker who once headed the local Bank of America operation, has served as president and CEO of the group since 2002. Wilson was named Chattanooga area manager of the tear in 2006.