Howard Ray

Engineering firm owner Howard Ray is the 2019 Douglas Chamber chairman. 

The Douglas County Chamber's 2019 chairman says he wants the organization to work to appeal to community groups not now participating and update its approach to recruiting new members.

Howard Ray, president of HRC Engineers, Surveyors & Landscape Architects in Douglasville, said he wants to see more member "engagement" during his year as chairman of the chamber's volunteer board.

Ray, who has operated a business in Douglasville for 20 years, said he attended the inaugural Superintendent's Gala in early November which benefited the county school system's Special Education Department. He said he knew only about 15 percent of the people in attendance.

"Groups are involved but not necessarily in the Chamber," Ray said.

He said he believes the Chamber also needs to "evolve" in its membership recruitment efforts.

Chambers traditionally relied on programs like monthly mixers to gain the business community's involvement and "there's still a time and place for meet and greets."

However, he noted younger professionals now want to be shown the "benefit" they will receive from membership.

"You must adapt," Ray said. "It's about giving them the services that they want."

Ray said the number of start-up companies in Douglas County is comparatively low. He suggested one chamber program could include helping new businesses learn to "get out of the ground" by working with institutions like Mercer University on ideas to help them.

The 2019 Chamber board chairman is a native of Villa Rica. He earned a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree from Georgia Tech, and is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and Georgia Association of Water Professionals.

His areas of expertise include value engineering, storm water control and water quality, according to information on his company's website.

Ray also oversees his company's business development and client retention efforts and quality control on its projects, which have included everything from churches to restaurants, the company website stated.

He is a member of the boards of Tanner Health and the Carroll County Chamber, among other area civic organizations.

Ray said he would like to see more companies establish their headquarters in Douglas County so 65 percent of the county's employed residents would not have to travel outside the county for jobs.

"There's a lot of talent leaving," he said. "Let's keep that talent here."

Douglas County, for example, would be ideal for aerospace companies because of its relatively close proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Ray said.

He noted the Nashville, Tennessee, suburb of Franklin has been able to attract 40 companies to establish their corporate headquarters.

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