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HUNTINGTON — Tricia Ball has been named the new president and chief executive officer of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce as the organization advocates for businesses struggling in the midst of economic issues caused by the pandemic.

“My short-term goal is to conduct a listening tour with Cabell and Wayne County business owners to learn more about their experience with the chamber if they are members, why they have not joined or discontinued their membership if not, and what types of issues they are facing as a business,” Ball said. “My plan is to use these learnings to inform a strategic plan that I will draft in conjunction with the chamber staff and board to guide our efforts moving forward.”

Ball, 34, was the associate director of Marshall University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation, or iCenter, which is part of the Lewis College of Business.

“In my roles at iCenter and [the Brad D. Smith Business Incubator] at Marshall University, I’ve worked with emerging and small businesses, so my current understanding is based on that perspective,” Ball said. “I know a lot of these businesses struggle with technical areas like marketing, e-commerce, graphic design and obtaining funding. Another common need amongst them is coaching and mentorship when they are ready to scale and take their business to the next level.

“I am looking forward to hearing more from the chamber’s larger members about their most pressing needs, but imagine that would include workforce issues and business climate and policy issues.”

Ball will succeed Bill Bissett, who left the position in October to join the staff of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., as senior adviser for economic development and state initiatives.

Ball starts the job Feb. 1.

“It may sound cliché, but this has been my dream job for years,” Ball said. “I remember when I left my job at Appalachian Transportation Institute and Center for Business and Economic Research to go to the iCenter, a friend asked me what my ‘end game’ was, and my response was that I’d really love to be the president of the chamber of commerce one day.”

Ball says she grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania with parents who were small-business owners.

“My mom owned a hair salon before becoming a stay-at-home mom when my sister and I were born, and my dad owned a logging company,” she said. “Due to a logging accident when I was young, my dad had to quit his job as a truck driver, and they bought a pizza shop. The pizza shop was in a whitewater rafting town with a population of 60 at the time, so we were only open during tourist season from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but I spent my summers growing up taking people’s orders, getting their drinks and making their food once I was old enough.

“People thought my parents were crazy for letting me run the cash register when I was in grade school, but it taught me so many skills early in life that have benefited me both personally and professionally,” she said. “It instilled a strong work ethic in me, and I know that them owning a business opened up a lot of opportunities for us as a family that we wouldn’t have had otherwise, including my sister and I both going on to be first-generation college students at West Virginia University.

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“I always say that I feel like entrepreneurship gave our family a second chance and, in a lot of ways, I feel like that’s what West Virginia and a lot of families in West Virginia need — a second chance.”

Ball said it has always been her personal mission to pay it forward and help rewrite West Virginia’s story from one of generational poverty to one of generational prosperity.

“I was inspired to apply for the job because I feel like it will allow me to continue to do the work that I’ve been doing in my past several positions on a larger scale,” she explained. “Huntington is home to me, and I’ve said since I moved here in 2013 that we are on the cusp of something big. I’ve seen so much growth in my almost nine years here, and I’m excited and humbled to be able to be a part of what I believe is an upward trajectory.”

She said the chamber has about 550 members, but there is room to grow.

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are almost 3,000 employer establishments in Cabell and Wayne County, so there is room for growth,” she said. “Through the listening tour and strategic plan I would like to develop, I hope to identify ways to capitalize on that opportunity. My vision is to not market more, but matter more, and create such a valuable experience for our members that non-members see that and are inspired to join.”

Ball also spoke about her long-term goals.

“Internally, my long-term goals are to increase the chamber’s membership and retention rates, grow the staff and receive accreditation from the United States Chamber of Commerce,” she said. “More broadly, I want to strengthen economic vitality, diversity and resiliency … the Huntington area being a ‘destination’ to do business, increased population and decreased outmigration or ‘brain drain,’ and more creators than critiquers.”

Chamber board Chairman Toney Stroud said a search committee interviewed seven candidates. They felt Ball’s background was the best fit.

“If you are around her, you will quickly see that she has endless energy and is a business innovator,” Stroud said. “Her work with Marshall University in her roles with the iCenter and Brad D. Smith Business Incubator have equipped her to step into this new role as president of the Huntington Regional Chamber and hit the ground running. Tricia has great ideas and a timely plan to execute the chamber’s strategic plan.”

Ball has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from WVU and a master’s degree in student personnel in higher education from the University of Florida. She and her husband, Christopher, have two sons: Aaden, 8, and Ethan, 5.

The next big chamber event is the Volunteer of the Year awards luncheon, which is scheduled for March 25 at Guyan Country Club. More information about the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce can be found online at huntingtonchamber.org.

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