GUILDERLAND — Looking at Danielle Walsh’s, who began working as the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce’s new executive director in mid-January, background and past experiences, she seemed like the ideal person to slide into the new role.
“I’m very excited. It’s a bit nerve-wracking and I have a lot more responsibilities,” she said. “The Guilderland Chamber is a membership organization and we work to connect businesses with other businesses as well as consumers and the community. We promote businesses and events to people too and I oversee all of the aspects from office management down to getting out there and bringing in new members.”
Walsh grew up and has lived in the Capital District for almost all her life, having been raised in Clifton Park, then moving to Burnt Hills when she was in high school, attending SUNY New Paltz and moving back to Ballston Lake afterwards.
While at college, she said she studied English which “gave me great communication and analytical skills” and she also worked in the restaurant industry where she enjoyed learning about the fast-paced hospitality industry too.
After graduating from the university, she began working at Discover Albany — then known as Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau — in 2016 as a sales and events coordinator, where she helped organize large conventions, business meetings and sporting events.
Discover Albany is an independent, non-profit organization that promotes Albany County’s tourism, natural and cultural landmarks, economy and event spaces to visitors, businesspeople and event planners.
“I started at this position for one-and-a-half years first and I got to know a lot of people in the local area and I eventually got promoted to partnership and community relations manager,” Walsh said. “I found out more about the retail, restaurant and hospitality industries. I also fostered a passion for building business connections.”
She added that Discover Albany and the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce are similar in bridging businesses, people and services together as well as promoting them.
Prior to her new role at the Guilderland Chamber, Walsh said she had met with her predecessor, Michelle Viola-Straight, at least once and spoken with her a few times as Discover Albany and the Guilderland Chamber have worked together.
In November 2019, she saw how Viola-Straight was stepping down and she saw this as an opportunity to grow with the chamber, partially because she said she has long heard of its reputation as a positive and engaging organization.
“At Discover Albany, we had a staff of 13 so I was part of a team and also part of a three-person marketing team,” Walsh said. “So it’s a bit scary but exciting to potentially work at a smaller organization and I look forward to knowing the Guilderland community more and helping businesses there grow.”
Walsh said she found out right before Christmas that she landed the job at the Guilderland Chamber.
“It’s been really good so far and I’m very much in the stage of learning and absorbing information,” she said. “The most important thing for me now is to get out and meet with our members, hear from them and check in with them to see what things they might want to do at the chamber as well as continue discussing how to best guide the chamber ahead.”
She brought up that
she will attend a meet-and-greet mixer on Thursday. Feb. 6 at Apex Entertainment at Crossgates Mall from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
“It will be a good opportunity for me and the members to see the new space as well as meet everyone,” she said. “That’s my first goal and on top of that, it’s also trying to see where we can add in some new benefits for our members and look at our programming and events and think what sorts of creative things we can do.”
Regarding the current landscape in Guilderland, Walsh said the town is seeing a lot of new developments which she sees is a good thing “but it’s also important to see that it’s responsible development.”
She also noted businesses are still competing against online shopping and retailers; she said she hopes she can work with chamber members on how to continue serving residents as best as they can and promote local businesses.
“Looking ahead, I’d love to help figure out how to be the chamber of the future too and I think small businesses are not having much time to get out and attend networking events,” Walsh concluded. “I want to continue working with our members to figure all that out and still deliver.”