Q&A: New Chamber CEO: Tremendous potential in Kingman

Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Gregg Martin said the area’s infrastructure – from current and future interstates to rail and air service – put the city and region in good position for economic growth.

Photo by Hubble Ray Smith.

Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Gregg Martin said the area’s infrastructure – from current and future interstates to rail and air service – put the city and region in good position for economic growth.

KINGMAN – Like so many Kingman transplants, Gregg Martin fell for the beauty of the desert and the small-town atmosphere when he visited the area with his wife, Cheryl, a couple of years ago.

She was interviewing for a job as chief information officer in charge of medical records at Kingman Regional Medical Center, and had other opportunities in Columbus, Ohio; Dallas and Chicago.

Or she could have taken a job in Charlotte, N.C., where their youngest son lives. They chose Kingman.

“It’s so different from the South, visually different, but so beautiful,” said Martin, who grew up in South Carolina. “My home state is rolling hills, the fall leaves are brilliant, but this place is beautiful, as well.

Maybe it was the time of year, but we both saw it quickly.”

A retired health care executive, Martin was looking for his own opportunity that would allow him to give back to the community, and worked for the Western Arizona Council of Governments for a while.

Then he heard the Kingman Chamber of Commerce was looking for a chief executive officer. He applied for the job and, “’lo and behold, it worked out,” Martin said during an interview in his office on Stockton Hill Road.

Martin holds an undergraduate degree in business administration from Erskine College in South Carolina, and an MBA from Emory University in Atlanta.

He was chief operating officer for Tuomey Healthcare System before retiring.

He’s been on the job for three weeks now and is ebullient about the possibilities and potential for economic development here.

KDM: Why did you leave South Carolina for Kingman?

Martin: For me, it was time to do something different. For Cheryl, it was her time to go to places she wanted to work.

“We decided it was best for us, a transition time for us. We left our home, we left our family, and after two years here, we felt it was absolutely the best decision.

KDM: What qualities or attributes did you sell yourself on during the interview with the Chamber of Commerce board?

Martin: I told them I thought my experience as an executive would be very important and really, I have a lifelong involvement in the local chamber and serving on boards. Chambers live and thrive off boards and committees. It takes a lot of volunteer effort, so in my career, I was always a part of that. I told them economic development is the lifeblood of a community and I’ve always become involved in that activity. I’d been here long enough to see that the potential is enormous for business growth.

KDM: We hear that a lot, but we don’t see much of it. What are the challenges to bringing new business to Kingman?

Martin: It’s not just for Kingman, but coming out of 2008, 2009, 2010 and the issues of the economy, we see signs of improvement, but everybody is being very cautious about what steps to take, what risks to take, what projects to undertake.

KDM: So how do you see potential for growth?

Martin: I asked people about what drives the community and where we’re going, and I got so much positive response and optimism. I walked into businesses and visited with people around town in a position of knowing.

Nobody says this is a perfect world, this is a piece of cake. But when you have the right infrastructure and attitudes in the community and a willingness to pull together, then good things can happen.

You look at I-40 and (future) Interstate 11, you look at rail, the industrial park, you do look at the airport, you look at big players in town and manufacturing and tourism and KRMC. My observation is the parts and pieces and desire and willingness exist all over this community.

KDM: What’s holding us back?

Martin: I think you have to be very deliberate and very thoughtful about how growth happens. When you come off the issues of 2009 and 2010, it does give you concern. You don’t forget those lessons that quickly. People say that was 10 years ago, but the way investment moves, it doesn’t move fast.

KDM: The mission of the Chamber of Commerce is to promote business through education, partnerships and networking. What are your goals as CEO to foster that mission?

Martin: Networking is a huge part currently and will be an ever-increasing part of what the Chamber is going to do because we learn from each other by sharing information because we’re all in this together. I’m not in this by myself. A big part of the Chamber’s role is to get people together as often as possible and as many ways as possible.

Partnering … we’ve got so many entities in this community that care about economic development. The county and city are huge stakeholders. The hospital is a huge economic driver. Kingman Unified School District and Mohave Community College, same thing. They all desire to see growth. Then you talk about the industrial business. Collectively, they have a lot of power to drive economic development.

The other thing is to be better engaged in education. What programs can we be a part of or bring to the community to help small businesses or new businesses? Or specifically this kind of business or that kind of business. Also, be engaged in discussion about legislation and regulation specifically that have an impact on business, like Prop 206 (initiative to raise minimum wage).

KDM: What can you do to improve local business?

Martin: I have to listen to what our membership is saying and I have to listen to what the membership wants, what they feel will lead to more prosperity. My job will be to help find a way our Chamber can address what they’re concerned about and what they’re saying. We have to develop our engagement programs toward what the membership says will drive their prosperity, because they’re where the rubber hits the road, they know what works and what’s not working.