Newsmakers: Chamber, nature support group make key hires

FW Chamber hires economic developer from Ohio

The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce has hired a veteran Ohio economic development executive as senior vice president of business attraction, retention and expansion, leading one of four pillars of the Chamber’s new strategic plan, “Fortify.”

Chris Strayer, who most recently was with Columbus 2020 in Columbus, Ohio, will join the chamber staff Feb. 12, the chamber said in a news release.

Columbus 2020 is one of the top five economic development agencies in the United States, Brandom Gengelbach, executive vice president of economic development for the chamber, said in the release.

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“We have said that we need rock stars on our team and Chris is just that. His forward thinking and willingness to try new initiatives are perfect for what we need to help accomplish our new strategy,” Gengelbach said.

Strayer was senior project manager for business development and project management at Columbus 2020, the economic development organization for the 11-county Columbus region.

The Fort Worth Chamber said that since 2011, Strayer has overseen more than 180 successful projects with more than $1.5 billion in investments and 35,000 retained and created jobs.

Previously, Strayer was special projects manager for the Ohio Department of Development and development director for the City of Canal Winchester. He holds a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning from Michigan State University and an economic development finance professional credential from the National Development Council.

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“Looking across the country, it is hard to find a community comparable to Fort Worth’s ability to attract and retain top talent and economic opportunity,” Strayer said in the announcement. “This is a vibrant city that my family and I are excited to call home. I look forward to working with community partners to support the continued economic growth of the Fort Worth area.”

Nature Center support group hires executive director

The Friends of the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge, a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization created in 1974 to help financially support and protect the Nature Center, has hired its first full-time executive director.

Haily Summerford comes to the Friends from the National Audubon Society with more than 25 years of experience in environmental education, conservation and nonprofit organizational leadership. She earned an environmental studies degree from Cornell College and an MBA from the University of Dallas in not-for-profit management.

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“With her help, strategic efforts to improve recognition and raise funds will be strengthened, advancing our mission to preserve and protect this Fort Worth treasure,” Friends board President Chris Smith said in a news release.

Summerford began her career working with overnight camps at the Fort Worth Zoo and later worked for Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Glen Rose in education, volunteer management and special event planning. She spent 11 years working for the City of Fort Worth in the Environmental Management Department and at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. She also was director of public engagement for the Fort Worth Independent School District before joining Audubon.

Send newsmakers to Robert Francis at