Zoe (rhymes with “Joe”) Taylor began a six-month term as interim president of the S.B. Chamber of Commerce this week. During her term, the chamber will seek a permanent replacement for its former president Steve Cushman who retired in May. Taylor served as president of the Ventura chamber from 1996 to 2009 before starting a career as a professional itinerant interim executive. She has so far hopped from Kingman, Arizona, to Huntington Beach, Manhattan Beach, and now Santa Barbara.
The first chamber staff Taylor joined was in Pico Rivera in 1982, right when Northrop Grumman was opening a new facility there in a defunct Ford plant. The chamber helped to recruit and attract employees to the small city east of L.A. Despite that heady start in chamber work, Taylor has led chambers through three economic downturns, none quite as bad as this one, however. When she was CEO of the Burbank chamber, Lockheed Martin and three other big employers left town at about the same time, taking with them 17,000 jobs and leaving 300 acres of unused space. The chamber helped the city cope by aiding displaced tech professionals in opening their own businesses.
Although chamber membership both in Santa Barbara and nationally has been flagging the past few years, Taylor said recessions provide ripe opportunities for chambers to sharpen their focus on core competencies: building a strong local economy, providing a voice for businesses with government, spurring community development, and offering a conduit for networking.