After six months on the job as the executive director of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, Sally Halbleib has formed some definite impressions about her new home and the things she’d like to see accomplished to make it even better.

“A great strength of the community was apparent to me from the beginning,” Halbleib said. “The fact that so many people made such great efforts to make me feel at home, that makes you feel more settled. The people here are sincere and genuinely reach out to you.”

She mentioned two people specifically as tremendous assets whose contributions may be underestimated here.

“The part of being in East Texas that I’ve enjoyed the most is making fun of Jimmy Dickey,” Halbleib said with a laugh. She’s found a connection with the chamber director and customer service manager for GEUS.

“I have a rather warped sense of humor, and it is refreshing that I could put Jimmy at the top of my hit list, and he takes it gracefully and just dishes it right back. But I think people underestimate him because he is so easy going. He knows a lot about the community and what makes it tick.”

She also had words of praise for Greenville Board of Development director Robert Winningham.

“He’s such a polite and nice man, not everyone understands the knowledge and work he does behind the scenes. Robert and I are pretty much in the same business. The economic development professionals bring in new businesses and help them expand, and the local chamber has to make sure they’re darn happy after they’re here.”

Halbleib was thrilled with the news that Paris Junior College would be building a new, expanded facility here next year.

“As a former teacher, I see the advantage of workforce development,” she said. “The fact that this community college is taking hold here and growing like crazy, it is going to make a difference. Every chamber I’ve been involved with has had workforce issues, that is, helping make sure businesses will find the type of skilled workforce they’ll need when they relocate.”

She said the PJC expansion was excellent news on the workforce front, but would also help the entire community.

“Look at the New Horizons School here. There is another example of the community helping someone get a leg up. By helping them, you are helping yourself,” Halbleib said.

Halbleib said she was supportive of the city’s Main Street Program.

“It is important for a community to have a sense of history and continuity,” she said. “We have such a tendency to want to tear down and rebuild. It is really unfortunate, because anyone who has any connection with economic development knows that culture is one of the three things businesses look at when they are relocating. The first is taxes, the second is education and workforce and the third is culture, including the heart and soul of the community—and that is your downtown.”

Halbleib said a major thrust for the Greenville Chamber in the future will be the building of partnerships.

“We want the Greenville Chamber to play a role not only in developing new business opportunities within the city, but in the county and in the area. I believe in partnerships with other Chambers working together. We’re going to meet on a regular basis and pool our resources and work together.”

Halbleib said she also wants to expand the Chamber’s career fair.

“We want to continue working with students, but we also want to go beyond that to include working adults this next spring. So many people working in jobs don’t have the time or opportunity to go around and research other businesses. Even if they don’t find a new job now, it will help people know what they should do to qualify for another job down the road.”

Since coming to Texas in June, the Pennsylvania native had one other observation about how things look after six months.

“Thank God it cooled off.”

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