Photo courtesy of The Chamber.
By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
As the new year progresses, The Chamber of Gadsden and Etowah County welcomes an established and influential figure in the community aboard its team. Recent President & CEO – Elect Christi Robinson conveys her immense gratitude upon obtaining this opportunity, detailing her passion for propelling Etowah County forward in all the days to come.
Robinson (pictured at right) follows the leadership of former President & CEO Hea-ther Brothers New, who served The Chamber since 2011. Born and raised in Etowah County, Robinson graduated from Sardis High School before furthering her education with an Associate Degree in Business Administration from Snead State Community College. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Jacksonville State University before her innate love of learning sparked her desire to return to school once more, attending Birmingham School of Law in 2016. Though Robinson moved to Birmingham briefly following a job opportunity, her connection with the people in Etowah County – who she considers the heart of the community – inspired her to return, curating years of commitment and an incredible footprint in her hometown.
Innovative entrepreneurship proves a legacy for Robinson, who inherited her father’s business-oriented nature. Growing up in the entrepreneurial sphere, Robinson witnessed her father and uncle operate a company for 40 years. She translated a childhood enriched with an appreciation for advancement and small business into a partnership with her husband, Chris. Chris and Robinson own and operate beloved local dining destinations Blackstone Pub & Eatery on Broad Street in downtown Gadsden and Blackstone Pizza Kitchen, which neighbors Noccalula Falls. The Robinsons recently collaborated with Jason and Jessica Wilson to debut another exciting venture, opening Current Market & Deli at River Rocks Landing in Gadsden.
“I think my love for business, number one, inspired me to apply for The Chamber position,” said Robinson, who leaves 13 years at Alabama Teachers Credit Union to write this new chapter. “Heather [New] has done a great job with The Chamber. I’m hopeful and confident I’ll be able to carry The Chamber forward into something brand new that has never been done before – not only for The Chamber, but for Etowah County in general. The Chamber is here to be an advocate for businesses and that’s what I’m going to do. This position spoke to my soul, so I wanted to give it a shot. I’m very grateful I was chosen.”
Robinson’s background as a small business owner for a little over two decades grants her a valuable perspective concerning what local businesses need to ensure success. She understands that all businesses – and plans of action for improvement – are personalized and differ depending on what is best for owners, employees and customers. Her roles at the credit union, from working in lending to her most recent position as a fraud specialist, broadened her professional experience concerning connecting with people and building strong relationships. In meeting new people or collaborating with established colleagues, Robinson’s natural communication skills enable her to determine what individuals and businesses deem important and how she can assist them in accomplishing their goals.
As an active and influential member of the Etowah County community, serving on numerous boards in the past and coordinating multiple fundraisers, Robinson’s extensive knowledge of non-profit organizations adds another element to her role as Chamber President & CEO.
“[As Chamber President & CEO] I get to stay in the non-profit world, which is where my heart is,” said Robinson, discussing what inspires her to remain involved with so many organizations dedicated to the betterment of the community. “Sometimes it’s the leadership of those organizations, sometimes it’s their mission, but if I’ve become involved it’s because it’s touched me in some way. When you know why an agency is doing the work, you can really get behind it.”
Outside of her vast business and non-profit-related knowledge, Robinson tackles the challenge of learning Chamber operations and recognizing its vital efforts throughout the community. Robinson assisted with Chamber programming prior to her role as President & CEO, contributing to both Leadership Etowah and the Student Leadership Council. She shared that throughout the months, The Chamber’s staff proves phenomenal – a patient, helpful and considerate team of caring individuals who work alongside her to uplift and advance the county. Robison considers her coworkers one of her favorite aspects of her position, alongside the opportunity she treasures to learn and grow, giving her the opportunity to foster that same beneficial education in others.
As The Chamber finalizes its existing strategic plan, Robinson shared The Chamber’s future goals include community assessment to determine what direction businesses and members hope to travel in the next five years. She highlighted exciting developments in store for 2022, including an entrepreneur fair catered to fifth-graders which introduces them to the rewarding reality of business-ownership, and a CEO roundtable where leaders will weigh the obstacles they face and successes they achieve.
“The services The Chamber produces are invaluable,” said Robinson. “They teach so many things and they connect customers to businesses in a way that I’ve never seen. I definitely think there is tremendous value with members at The Chamber. There are strong connections between businesses, either through services provided or life-long friendships created from those connections. The spirit of entrepreneurship in Etowah County – and all these small businesses working together to make sure Etowah County not only continues, but thrives – is incredibly inspiring.”
Robinson fosters an ultimate vision for The Chamber, collaborating with likeminded individuals who share her determined commitment and proven leadership. Her utmost achievement resides with all businesses in Etowah County recognizing the invaluable programs available at their fingertips, and uniting with The Chamber’s mission to enhance its community. While Robinson’s own innovative approach and passionate nature mirrors the resolute character that flourishes throughout her home, she strives to manifest greater feats for her fellow residents and business owners. As she and The Chamber staff diligently work toward a brighter future, Robinson reflects on an unwavering truth that defines her past – her most treasured accomplishment will always align with the relationships she forms and the friendships she cherishes.
“There’s not anything more valuable to me than those relationships,” said Robinson. “In this new role, I’m seeking feedback, ideas and partnership. I am very grateful and very excited to be a part of this process – to put together a plan that’s going to move us all forward.”