The new president of the Denison Area Chamber of Commerce outlined future plans and changes in approach for the chamber Friday during the Denison Development Alliance’s annual economic development summit. Ken Higdon, who took over leadership at the Chamber in November, said he plans to focus the chamber on membership worthwhile for the businesses and organizations that join it.


The summit, not in its 17th year, offers economic developers and other business interests an opportunity to meet at the start of each year. The event often serves as a recap of developments over the previous year while highlighting developments and projects to come over the next year.


“We are going to make our programs where every member gets a return on investment,” Higdon said during Friday’s event.


Under his leadership, Higdon said he plans to refocus the chamber and run it more like a well-organized business, and maintaining its support for events the chamber has historically been a part of, including annual parades and others festivities. For chamber members, Higdon said the chamber will serve as an advocate for the interests of its members and help market and network area businesses.


Beyond its role in supporting area businesses, Higdon said he also wants to focus on the chamber’s involvement in area tourism and “putting heads in beds” for area hotels during events. Higdon estimated that each tourist in the area typically spends about $150 a day while in the area between hotel, dining and retail shopping.


In order to increase the impact of this funding source, Higdon said he wants to pursue more multiday events in Denison. Through this, visitors will spend more time in the city during a visit and hopefully add more money to the local economy.


In addition to bringing longer events to Denison, Higdon said he also wants to work with local organizations to keep visitors in town for the city’s existing events. As an example, chamber officials said roughly 25,000 visitors came to downtown Denison last fall for the city’s annual Fall Fest, but typically everyone leaves once the primary event itself is over. By offering other events after the festival itself is over, Higdon said he hopes visitors may be encouraged to stay overnight.


Higdon’s appointment to the leadership of the chamber comes after a lengthy search.


“For 13 months, 13 months, the Denison Chamber had no president, no one to lead the troops,” Denison Chamber board Chairman Jason Taylor said, going on to laud Interim President Shelle Cassell for her leadership during this time. “Thirteen months is a lot of time.”


In addition to thanking Cassell for her efforts, Taylor thanked the chamber staff who helped keep the organization stable during this time of transition.


“When we think of heroes, we think of names like Sullenberger or Eisenhower, but they all have a local connection,” Taylor said.