Businessman Vincent Jackson named head of Northampton Chamber of Commerce

  • Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, April 17, 2018. FILE PHOTO

  • SUBMITTED PHOTO SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/17/2019 12:05:28 AM
Modified: 5/17/2019 12:05:17 AM

NORTHAMPTON — The city’s Chamber of Commerce has named a new executive director. 

Vincent Jackson, a Hadley businessman, will be taking over the role on June 3. He replaces Suzanne Beck, who has led the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce for 26 years. She announced in February that she would be retiring. 

“I’m really excited about it,” Jackson said Thursday. “I’m just hoping that we can get some points on the board really early and fast and get a lot more people engaged in what we’re trying to do to drive the economy.”

Jackson is the founder and CEO of the consulting company Marketing Moves, which provides companies with “strategic and innovative marketing support,” according to its website. Clients of Marketing Moves include Fortune 60 corporations, small businesses, nonprofits and individuals seeking marketing expertise and consultation.

Before founding the company in 2000, Jackson worked for a decade as a senior product manager at PepsiCo, two years as an assistant product manager at Kraft Foods and three years as a senior systems analyst at Procter & Gamble Company.

Ruth Griggs, a member of the chamber’s board of directors who was on the search committee that ultimately decided on Jackson, described him as thoughtful, perceptive and a “very deeply experienced entrepreneur.”

“He’s just got a balance of skills and characteristics that the folks at the chamber felt very strongly about,” she said.

The chamber’s search committee looked nationwide for candidates, Griggs said, but decided on Jackson, who has been in the Pioneer Valley for more than a decade.

“He just raised to the top of the heap in every single round,” said David DeSwert, the president of the chamber’s board. 

Griggs said that Jackson’s local knowledge, as well as his perspective as someone who has previously lived and worked outside the region, will be a benefit for the chamber. And Jackson agreed.

“I’m not beholden to any institutions or any powerful individuals,” Jackson said. “I come in with a very unbiased and objective point of view and look forward to adding value and getting to know people.”

The chamber will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in June, and at the same time, it plans to implement a new strategic plan that will reinvent the chamber’s role in the area.

“We want the chamber to evolve into being a part of the community in broader ways than it has been in the past,” Griggs said.

Jackson said that means the chamber wants to move past being just a membership organization to more of a “partnership organization.” Shaping that vision — getting people to move from being just dues-paying members to becoming more engaged with the organization and community — is one of the challenges Jackson looks forward to tackling when he takes over next month.

“There are probably not a lot of models in the landscape right now in terms of what that looks like,” Jackson said.

But he’s not one to shy away from a challenge, he said: “I take on breaking barriers as a challenge and look at it as an opportunity.”

Jackson will be breaking a barrier in another way as the first African-American to lead the Chamber of Commerce. His predecessor, Beck, was the first woman to ever lead the chamber.

In addition to broadening the reach of the chamber, the strategic plan aims to expand the chamber’s focus on entrepreneurship, improve engagement with other local organizations and increase diversity and inclusion.

Given that Beck has been in her role for nearly three decades, many members of the chamber and local business community are sad to see her leave. One of them is Judy Herrell, the owner and operator of Northampton’s Herrell’s Ice Cream.

“I love Suzanne with all my heart and soul and wish her luck in any of her endeavors,” Herrell said. She added that, while Jackson’s experience is different from Beck’s, she has heard that he is “wonderful.” “I’m sure that the business community, and the chamber in general, and our local Northampton community, will greatly benefit from his knowledge and expertise.”

Jackson has taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he was a lecturer in the Isenberg School of Management’s marketing department. He has a bachelor’s degree from Grambling State University in Louisiana and a master’s of business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Jackson lives in Hadley with his wife, Lisa Green — a linguistics professor at UMass Amherst and the founding director of the school’s Center for the Study of African American Language — and their 10-year-old son, Nasir.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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