Chad Maender may only be a few weeks into his role as the LAX Coastal Chamber’s new President/CEO, but he’s using more than a decade of experience in community development to create a sense of belonging, build relationships and provide a powerful resource for area businesses.
Maender says that over the last 60-plus years the chamber has laid a great foundation, and he looks forward to carrying on the tradition of being innovative, advocating for his members and collaborating with community partners.
Read how Maender and his team are looking to the future with the organization’s newly launched strategic plan, and welcoming business leaders to join their chamber community in this month’s business spotlight.
Q. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
A. I am originally from the Midwest, but as kids we bounced around a bit and spent time in Chicago and Atlanta. My parents ultimately settled our family back where they were from in St. Louis, Missouri. I went to college at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis where I found two of my passions in life: nonprofit/community development work and art. While a student at the University of Minnesota, I started volunteering at the local campus YMCA where I started as a youth mentor. When I finished school, I was recruited to move to Los Angeles as an art curator. I did that for a few years, and then returned to the nonprofit world where I started at our local and beloved Westchester Family YMCA.
It was in Westchester where I really developed as a professional and built long lasting relationships with a great group of community and business leaders. I attribute my years at the Y to really understanding what it takes to run a successful organization. In 2014, I was lucky enough to get a chance at running my own Y branch as the Executive Director of the Mid Valley Family YMCA in Van Nuys. In that role, I learned about some of the daily challenges that face many Angelenos–homelessness, food insecurity, access to healthcare, etc. It was strategic partnerships with local businesses, organizations and elected officials that really helped address these challenges.
My wife Alaina and I are incredibly blessed to have two amazing children– our daughter, Saylor is now 4 and our son, Cashel just turned 2. We live 10 minutes away from the chamber in Hawthorne, just south of LAX. On our weekends, you can find us at the beach, locating the next great park, trying new food spots or barbecuing in the backyard.
Q. When did you start working at the chamber? What interested you in working there?
A. I was lucky enough to join the LAX Coastal Chamber team in August of 2018. I had known our previous President/CEO, Christina Davis, for close to 12 years at the time, and she had always been a professional mentor and advocate my entire career. When the opportunity presented itself to join this organization, I knew it felt right. Joining a winning team was a no-brainer, and I was excited about being able to work directly with our members as Vice President of Membership. I feel like my calling in life has always been about serving the community, and in this case, it’s our business community.
Q. In your new role as President/CEO what are your goals for the chamber and supporting businesses in the community? Are you planning on making any big changes or launching any new initiatives this year?
A. I think first and foremost, the game plan is to really just create a strong foundation off what already has been built. If it’s not broken and it’s working, let’s not fix it. We will be bringing on a new team member over the next few months and one of our top priorities is to keep our innovative and dynamic programming at an all-time high. COVID has forced organizations to really think outside the box on how they can bring value to their members. I feel like we have done that. We will continue to listen to our members to hear what their needs are and make adjustments accordingly.
In terms of new initiatives being launched, that will really come from our strategic plan that we just approved at our January board meeting. It’s incredibly exciting, and I feel it will be something that continues to set our organization apart and will keep it fresh and relevant.
Q. Unlike a lot of chambers that only focus on business issues, the LAX Coastal Chamber is unique because it hosts events like the Fourth of July Parade and is very involved in the community. Are you planning on carrying on that tradition?
A. There is no doubt that we are a different kind of chamber of commerce. We not only focus on business issues, but we also are dedicated to quality of life issues that face our community. Chambers and the business community play a critical role in building great schools, lifting up our nonprofits that work so hard to address unmet needs and providing resources that make this the community that people want to live, play and work in.
The Fourth of July Parade has been celebrated in the local community for 21 years now. It has provided so many incredible memories for so many. We’re committed to ensuring that the parade remains a focal point in Westchester. Traditions are important, but we’re also open to adjusting and pivoting as times change.
Q. You recently announced that the chamber has completed its first strategic plan in decades. Can you tell me a little bit about what the plan entails and how it will drive your organization going forward?
A. We are so excited about our strategic plan! We kicked off the strategic planning process in August 2021, and we just wrapped up everything in January. Over the course of six months, we conducted board interviews, staff interviews, member focus groups and member surveys. It was really a 360-degree look at our organization. We were fortunate enough to have one of our very own chamber members lead us through this process. Dr. Kevin Shane Walsh, Managing Member of Global Community Enrichment led the charge, and both he and Board Chair Elect and Chief Operating Officer of Decron Properties, Joe Coleman, were instrumental in creating a dynamic committee that developed a shared vision for the future.
A few incredible things that came out of it were the development and reinforcement of the chamber’s mission, vision and core values, along with three key strategic priorities that we will focus on over the next three years.
One area of focus will be being a collaborator on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the business community. Whether it be providing resources to our small business community or ensuring that our chamber is accessible to all businesses that want to join and get involved, we know that DEI needs to be interwoven into everything we do already and everything we plan for the future.
Q. If you’re a local business, why should you join the chamber?
A. Local small businesses are the life blood of our community. Each of them have an amazing story to tell, and we can play a role in helping amplify that story and that voice. The chamber has something for every business, whether it be educational resources for employees, strategic partnerships, advocacy or community involvement. Supporting the chamber by joining is an affirmation that you want to help boost the local economy and help businesses thrive. Whether you are a local Westchester shop owner, an airline at LAX, or building the next development in Marina del Rey, our organization is here to help make it easier to do business for you and your team.
Q. What are your best tips for engagement with the chamber? Best tips for being engaged with the LAX Coastal area?
A. Engagement means something different for each business. For some, it could be attending events and for others it could be visibility in the local area. Showing up and being an involved contributing member of the local community lifts all boats.
My top three tips for engaging with the chamber are:
• Ensure the chamber team knows what your business priorities are in the local community. This helps with providing meaningful interactions at events and programs.
• Consider shopping with a chamber business next time you need something like dinner or professional services. You can get a full list of our members on our website or in our annual magazine.
• Make meaningful relationships with other members that will help create a network of support beyond our staff.
My top three tips for engagement with the LAX Coastal area are:
• Get to know the local issues that face the LAX Coastal region.
• Participate in local events that have helped shape the community.
• Connect with local leaders at area nonprofits, schools and service organizations.
Learn more about the chamber and its members at laxcoastal.com.
Posted February 2022.
Top photo: LAX Coastal Chamber President/CEO, Chad Maender, discusses business issues with Gus Kazemi, the owner of the popular Westchester eatery, The Coffee Company. Photo by Zsuzsi Steiner.