Kathy Burbank will be leaving the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce after serving as the organization’s president for six years.
“I felt like I had been here a long time and I didn’t want this place to just end up being me,” Burbank said. “I knew coming in here that I didn’t want that to happen.”
On Nov. 8, Burbank will leave her position as Chamber president to become executive director of Community Caregivers, which is a not-for-profit offering home-based, non-clinical services for Albany County residents. Burbank, a Guilderland resident, will transition to being a member of the chamber she led.
Before becoming chamber president, Burbank was the development director at a homeless shelter in Albany and had a background in nonprofits and management. She said after joining the chamber, she was really busy and it was hard to get used to her new role.
“It took me a little while to get used to the pace,” she said. “There are a lot of interactions because there are 500 members. … You could see people all day, but you still had to get your work done.”
Burbank said eventually she became accustomed to the “very ADHD” atmosphere of leading the chamber, a role she described as being a cheerleader for the town as a whole.
“I want other people from other areas to come to Guilderland and see what we have here,” she said. “We do a lot of work with larger organizations like CEG and GlobalFoundries … for their employees that are looking to move here.”
The most rewarding aspect of her job was tying together businesses and town officials to promote Guilderland, she said.
“Using our larger system of nonprofits … and Town Hall and the businesses and the school district, anything that had to do with tying that all together was my favorite thing,” she said. “One of the best memories was the first Souped Up on Guilderland, which we did right when I first came on … and it turned out really well and everyone loved it.”
Chamber Board of Directors Chairwoman Jenni Bliven said Burbank was “excellent” at leading the organization and brought “fresh ideas,” along with an outgoing personality.
“The chamber is what it is because of Kathy, so she is going to be missed,” Bliven said. “She has been the staple of the chamber. I don’t think there is anybody that can fill her role because she’s done such a great job, but hopefully we can find somebody comparable to her.”
Troy Miller, owner of CM FOX Real Estate, said Burbank got to know chamber members on a personal and business level.
“I found her to be very engaging and helpful and someone you could go to if you needed something,” Miller said. “It seemed like every function was well attended and everyone respects her.”
Miller said Burbank is a “community person,” so whether she is at the chamber or Community Caregivers, she will do a good job.
Burbank said she worked with Community Caregiver Executive Director Tom Tipple previously, so once she heard he was looking to retire she jumped at the opportunity.
“I had thought about the position before because the organization was appealing to me, because it was a community based organization and right up my alley of what I did before this,” she said.
The most challenging thing for Burbank at the chamber was dealing with the recession and new business climate facing local businesses. She said there are good business opportunities in Guilderland that are only growing.
“Overall, we are doing well. There is a lot of new businesses opening and coming in and all the little plazas are doing improvements,” she said. “A lot of the smaller businesses … need to understand that the economy of 2007 is not ever coming back, where everybody had a lot of money to spend and you didn’t have to compete so much.”
One recommendation Burbank had for town officials to help improve the local business climate is to have a full-time economic development person. She said that would help attract more large-scale retail developments and assist local businesses.
Bliven said the board is looking for a person with an outgoing personality, comfortable with working with the public, who will bring fresh ideas to the chamber. There have been a few applicants, she said, but the chamber will take its time making a choice.
Burbank’s advice to the next chamber president is to sometimes just “be quiet and listen” to what people have to say.