Amherst chamber director departs after one year 

  • Tim O’Brien —Submitted photo

Staff Writer
Thursday, August 10, 2017

AMHERST — Only a year after he took over as executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, a veteran expert in destination marketing has left the position.

Tim O’Brien, of Hatfield, last week departed from the chamber and will be replaced on an interim basis by Jerry Guidera, who served in the same capacity in 2016 when Don Courtemanche left the chamber leadership after two years.

When asked why O’Brien was departing on the first anniversary of his hiring, neither he nor Guidera would comment for publication.

Guidera, general manager of Amherst Works who is also rehabilitating the Abercrombie Building on Bank Row in Greenfield, said he will work part time and that he doesn’t anticipate the chamber’s board of directors rushing a search for a permanent successor.

“Our first priority of business is to figure out the status of things and the role of the chamber in a changing market and the needs of our members,” Guidera said.

During his year in the position, O’Brien oversaw the chamber’s move to the new Visitor Information Center on South Pleasant Street, which it shares with the Amherst Business Improvement District, and the expansion of policy-focused events such as recorded forums focused on the business community. He was also in the midst of creating a visitors map to help introduce people to the area and its attractions.

Georgia Moore, president of the chamber’s board, said in a statement that she is grateful to O’Brien for his service.

“We look forward to continuing Tim’s work in building up our membership and planning new events, but we shall miss his leadership and ready wit,” Moore said.

In a message left with the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Moore said the chamber leadership will now “look at where we are” and begin a revisioning plan to figure out what is best for the organization. “We will fill the position when we feel we are ready to,” Moore said.

O’Brien, who worked in marketing for Yankee Candle and Kringle Candle and in the Springfield area before coming to Amherst, said in a phone interview Friday that being executive director was a terrific experience and that he met many passionate business people.

He anticipates another job in the near future. “I’m looking forward to moving onto something else in the weeks ahead,” O’Brien said.

The chamber also issued a statement on his behalf.

“The past 12 months have been deeply satisfying on the professional and personal level,” O’Brien said. “I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people, including the folks at the BID, and to participate in Amherst’s thriving business community.”

Guidera said some of the periodic After 5 events and other gatherings for the 450 member businesses, organizations and individuals, may be put off due to limited chamber staffing.

“We won’t be able to have the same level of engagement with members,” Guidera said.

But various annual events, including the A+ awards dinner this fall and a business bash, will continue, Guidera said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.