Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce president retiring in 2011

Charles H. Van Rysselberge, the President and CEO of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce for over eight years, announced today his plans to retire on March 31, 2011.

In making his announcement, Van Rysselberge said that this selected retirement date will coincide with th his ninth anniversary at the Charleston Metro Chamber, and his 40 anniversary of the beginning of a wonderful Chamber management career. Van Rysselberge added, “I seriously contemplated retiring more than two years ago.

However, with the onset of the severe recession in 2008, I felt that I needed to stay longer to insure that the Chamber would remain financially stable and to insure that, during the recession, we met the tremendous increase in demand from the Chamber's 2,000 plus member companies for the Chamber's wonderful programs and services." In addition, Van Rysselberge, who will turn 65 years old in October, also oversaw the Charleston Metro Chamber's recently-completed move to its new headquarters on Leeds Avenue and the drafting of the Chamber’s new five-year strategic plan. He added, "Having addressed those major subjects and other initiatives makes this the right time now to announce my retirement.”

Charleston Metro Chamber Board Chairman Bobby Pearce commented, “Charles has taken the Chamber to new heights of success during his almost nine years at the helm. Due in no small part to his leadership, the Chamber was recognized recently as one of the top three chambers in the United States. In addition, the Chamber has received much additional recognition for its innovative and unique programs and services which have helped to make the Charleston metro region one of the nation's hotspots for entrepreneurs and growth companies. Charles’ leadership will be sorely missed by staff, volunteers and regional businesses alike. We will be forming a search committee shortly to begin a nationwide search for a new President and CEO of the Chamber.”

Immediate Past Chamber Board Chairman David Maybank III said, “I want to extend my personal thanks to Charles who has made a complex and difficult job look easy. He seemed to effortlessly coordinate on a day-to-day basis the Chamber's staff, board, and business membership, all the while planning and implementing long-term strategic moves for the benefit of the Chamber's membership and the region as a whole. It has indeed been a pleasure to work with Charles, and I thank him for his dedication, leadership, and constant support of our business community.” Van Rysselberge has held his current position since April 1, 2002.

A few of the Chamber’s highlights that have occurred since that time include:

  • stronger Chamber financial footing--the Chamber has finished each of the last 8 years solidly in the black from a financial perspective
  • increased number of "Lead Investors" in the Chamber—the number of Lead Investors has grown from 30 to well over 200, representing more than a million dollars in additional revenue available for programs and services for regional businesses
  • leader of half-cent sales tax campaign—the Chamber helped lead the campaign which resulted in the successful passage of the half-cent sales tax in 2004 for infrastructure improvements in Charleston County
  • leader in successfully promoting local military base retention during BRAC 2005
  • leader in attracting discount air service to the Charleston metro region several times over the past six years including, most recently, Southwest
  • leader in business innovation and high-tech entrepreneurial programs and activities such as ThinkTEC, FastTRAC classes, ExecNET executive placement program, New Ideas statewide contest and the annual Homeland Security Innovation Conferences.
  • selection of interim and then recently new headquarters for the Chamber
  • establishment of the new World Trade Center Charleston which is focused on international business opportunities for regional businesses
  • established a new 501(c)(3) Chamber Foundation to further the Chamber's mission of assisting in the growth and success of regional businesses
  • adoption of the Chamber’s new Five-Year Strategic Plan highlighting the Chamber's vision of the Charleston metro region as the world's best place to live, learn, work and play
  • expansion of the Chamber's nationally-acclaimed Education Foundation.

One of only 400 actively engaged Certified Chamber Executives (CCE) in the nation, Van Rysselberge has led the Chamber as it has received much national recognition over the past eight years, including being designated as one of only 50 Chambers, out of more than 6,000 in America, with Five Star status by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, being elected as one of three finalists for Chamber of the Year in 2007 by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives Association (ACCE), and winning the Abilene Trophy Award three times for superior community support to Charleston Air Force Base in an annual contest among Air Mobility Command communities. Van Rysselberge said he is honored to conclude his active Chamber career in such a wonderful and nationally-recognized region as Charleston, SC. “Most chambers have to strategize and work incredibly hard to try and help their community be recognized nationally and internationally as a 'cool' place to live, work, learn and play.

I think we already have that recognition and now the objective for the Chamber and the Charleston metro region is to improve on what already exists by continuing to reinvest in the region and avoid becoming complacent,” he said. “I have had nothing but continued support here, year after year, from outstanding volunteer leaders and an outstanding professional staff, who have all contributed significantly to making these successes we have had possible.”

He went on to comment, “While I am retiring from the chamber world, I expect to remain active on a part- time basis consulting to businesses and non-profit associations with a focus on organization management and fund raising.

Van Rysselberge had some early Chamber internship experiences in South Carolina before and after graduate school at the Columbia and Greenville Chambers, followed by service as a young Lieutenant at Fort Jackson in the early seventies. He and his wife Joan, then left the state for a fulltime career in the Chamber field, that took them away from South Carolina for thirty years, until their return to the state in 2002.

Van Rysselberge’s Chamber career has been highlighted with a variety of previous assignments in Dalton, Georgia where he was Chamber CEO during the boom period in the “carpet capital of the world,” Shreveport, Louisiana where he was Chamber CEO during the huge collapse in oil prices of the mid 1980s, followed by his serving as the number two executive (EVP) at the Atlanta Chamber when that city succeeded in being awarded the Summer Olympic Games, and followed by his serving as Chamber CEO in Oklahoma City when the Federal Building was bombed in 1995 and the F-5 Tornado came through in 1999.

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