TROY — Creating hope in communities, new Troy Area Chamber of Commerce President Joe Graves sees a world of opportunity in his new home of Troy.
“I always describe my position as that I create hope,” Graves shared. “Hope is relative. If I’m able to bring in a restaurant, it’s hope for that teenager to pay for college or pay for a car or pay for insurance. Or it could be the hope of a mother or father to get a job with an industry. I’m able to help with expansion or recruit a new industry and they are able to buy a home or put their child through college. That’s my unofficial title: Hope Creator.”
Graves said he enjoys the economic development aspect of his career and seeing people gainfully employed through the efforts of the Troy Development Council, for which he also serves as vice president, and the chamber and other community organizations.
“Economic development isn’t done by individuals, it’s done as a team,” he said. “It’s a fulfilling career.”
Graves is already hitting the ground running by organizing a “hands-on” career fair for students and the general public in 2019.
“Instead of talking to someone across the table, we are encouraging industries to bring a robot, to bring a product that is actually manufactured here. A lot of people drive by a building every day and have no clue what is actually done behind those walls,” Graves said.
Graves shared that he facilitated the hands-on career fair project at Union, Mo., and Dixon County, Tenn., which were both deemed successful by participants.
“It’s community awareness, it’s education and it’s a career fair so it’s a program that has gone over well at my former communities and they have continued it to this day,” said Graves, who said his family enjoys finding new restaurants in which to dine, especially ethnic foods.
Graves said he’s currently working with the Troy Development Council on its list of priorities to focus on in 2019.
“We are going to reconvene in January and reduce those priorities to the top five. I’m sure workforce development will be a priority. I heard in it Missouri, I heard it in Tennessee and I’ve heard it here as well. We need to establish a larger workforce through additional training, education or through a recruitment to move into our community,” Graves said. “It’s not a central Ohio issue, it’s a national issue.”
Graves said he’ll bring some “outside of the box” ideas to tackle employment issues.
“Obviously what we’ve been doing traditionally has run its course, so we have to think a little differently,” he said.
J.C. Wallace announced last May his move to St. Simons Island, Ga. The chamber board began its nationwide search for Troy’s economic leader and selected Graves last fall.
Graves began his employment on Nov. 5. He formerly served as the president/CEO of the Dickson County Chamber of Commerce just outside of Nashville, Tenn. He also served as president and CEO for the city of Union, Mo. His experience also includes industrial site development, grant writing and administration and economic development.
A graduate of Murray State University, Graves kicked off his economic development career with the state Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Cabinet for five years.
“I have always wanted to work in some capacity in government,” said Graves, who said his family also enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking. “I’ve always wanted to find a position to give back.”
Graves also shared that his move to Troy will bring him closer to his hometown of the Carrollton area of Carroll County, Ky. Graves shared how he frequented the area going to Reds and Bengals games and visiting the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s U.S. Air Museum when he resided in Kentucky.
Graves said his first impression of the city of Troy when he visited last summer for an interview with the board.
“The thing that stood out to me was the beauty of the community. It was a nice late summer day with the hanging flower baskets on the bridge, the flowers in the downtown area and the fountain. It was a picturesque community that was easy to fall in love with,” Graves said. “When I drove into Troy, there was community pride. It was very (apparent) that Troy citizens love their community. That speaks volumes to somebody that looks at potentially moving to your community.”
Graves now resides in the city of Troy with his wife Teri and son Emerson who is a student at Concord Elementary School.
Reach Melanie Yingst at email@example.com