Archived Story

Rye reflects on first week at Chamber

Published 11:25am Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ann Rye has been the executive director of the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce for five days, but she has already been busy fully immersing herself into the business community.

“One thing that I’ve enjoyed is getting to meet more of the leaders of our community,” Rye said. “I think we have such a pool of talent – very dedicated people who believe in this community and give and sacrifice their time.”

Rye and her family – including husband Bill and daughters Macy, Payton and Natalie – have owned a lake home for about 11 years and decided to make the lake their permanent home in August.

“The lake gives you a sense of relaxation,” Rye said. “The community here, and the time that each person has taken to get to know us and the genuine aspect of that – it’s just something you don’t find everywhere.”

Rye comes to Alexander City from a business background, most recently from serving as the operating director for Dillard’s in Atlanta, where she oversaw the day-to-day activities of 196 employees, including training, goal setting and motivating as well as maintaining the store, meeting OSHA requirements and fulfilling other tasks.

After earning her business management degree from Carson Newman College, she was hired as a market research analyst in Atlanta.

“I gathered information about communities and statistics … for investors that were looking to invest in a hotel/motel type businesses,” Rye said.

Rye said her career progressed through working in the executive management program at Macy’s and then running her own interior design business for 17 years, after which she got her start with Dillard’s Department Stores, advancing from assistant store manager to operating director. Then she was offered another potential promotion.

“It opened a question mark of the possibility to move this direction,” Rye said. “Then my husband and I began to evaluate: ‘Is this the right career for you, Ann? Because it is going to require more steps.”

The family ultimately decided to turn down the promotion but follow through on the idea of moving to Lake Martin permanently.

Rye said she prayed the Lord would use her wherever she needed to be. So when she was asked to submit her resume for the chamber of commerce executive director job, she acted on it.

“I believe we have a lot to look forward to as we begin to market our community,” Rye said. “You see things a certain way for so long because you’re in a routine and you keep doing it. But there are possibilities out there that we sometimes don’t see.”

Rye said her energy, attitude and skill set will prepare her to succeed as the chamber director.

“I feel a true calling here,” Rye said. “I think I’m finally going to have a career where the whole business aspect … will keep me motivated and striving for great things for our future, but I will also feel like I have given and it mattered.

Rye said while she is still settling into the position, she already knows some of her plans and goals she wants to achieve, including drawing more businesses into chamber membership by showing how the chamber can be a resource for them as well as attracting more retail and dining establishments.

“I’m going to be working toward identifying retailers that are truly needs of the community,” Rye said. “I’d like to see our entire downtown full of great retailers, boutiques, specialty shops to give this area an atmosphere that’s … a little bit artsy and culture oriented to attract young people to our area.”

Rye also emphasized the need for a place to gather, in part to accommodate students at Central Alabama Community College, as well as other community members.

“I just envision more diversity in selection of places to do that,” Rye said.

Rye also emphasized the need for more diversity in restaurants.

“With a little diversity, commerce grows,” “The more choices you have, the more people you have. More choices don’t hurt the existing businesses – they enhance them.”

Rye said change is also needed at the chamber of commerce building.

“The chamber really needs to be the voice the community: we need to represent where we want the community to go,” Rye said. “I feel like we have some organization and updating within our building to do … We never know who’s walking through our door. It could be someone who’s looking to relocate a million dollar business here. It could be a small entrepreneur. It could be someone who’s looking to move their family here.”