Gary Farlow, who has served as president and CEO of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce for the past 10 years, announced on Friday his intention to retire at the end of March. “Our …
Gary Farlow, who has served as president and CEO of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce for the past 10 years, announced on Friday his intention to retire at the end of March.
“Our organization is saddened to lose the incomparable leadership of our friend and CEO Gary Farlow,” expressed Chamber Chairman Kimberly Casteel, president of USA Mortgage, Inc. “We are very thankful for his 16 years of service, and all of the accomplishments of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce during his tenure.”
“During my years of Chamber service, I have had the good fortune to work with outstanding business leaders, elected officials, volunteers and staff members who are committed to making Bradley County a stronger community,” shared Farlow. “Although I will miss the people and the mission of this wonderful organization, and after much prayerful thought, I believe it is good time to begin to set sail on the next chapter of my life and enjoy retirement with my beautiful wife, Sandy and the rest of our family.”
He went on to say that while he would like to slow down the pace of his work, he will continue some of his volunteer activities and will join his son Bryan’s industrial site selection and community and economic development consulting firm, The Arrowhead Group, on a part time basis.
Casteel added, “We wish Gary the very best in his retirement, and will continue the tradition of excellence for our organization that Gary has promoted these last many years.”
Under Farlow’s leadership, the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce and its partner organizations have been involved in economic development projects with capital investments exceeding $3.5 billion. The Chamber has instituted a new tiered dues structure that allows members more flexibility in choosing the benefits and services they receive in their membership, partnered with Cleveland Associated Industries to provide administrative services and staff support for their programs, broadened its involvement and stature in the region through involvement and leadership in the Thrive Regional Partnership and the Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership. The Chamber’s Tourism Department has brought the community national recognition with the development of the Hiwassee River Heritage Center in Charleston and designation as an official site on the Cherokee Trail of Tears. The Chamber also holds a Four-Star Accreditation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a prestigious distinction held by only 200 chambers of the approximately 7,000 chambers in the United States that recognizes outstanding contributions toward positive change in their communities.
“Farlow has overseen many advancements for our local Chamber, including the successful fundraising campaign this past year,” added Casteel. The $1.6 million Momentum’22: Investing in Tomorrow capital campaign resulted in crucial funds for vital economic, workforce and community development initiatives. “The campaign initiatives were developed by area business leaders to implement proactive economic and community development measures,” Farlow explained.
Under his leadership, Farlow, has championed workforce development and job preparedness throughout the region and state; particularly as an advocate for the Your Skills Your Future project, which launched in 2017, to meet employers’ needs for a qualified workforce and since recognized as a best practice model, being successfully assimilated in neighboring counties.
Among Farlow’s proudest achievements are: the creation of the joint Bradley/Cleveland Industrial Development Board, the now $2.5 billion Wacker Polysilicon project, the new Chamber Tiered Dues structure, the Your Skills Your Future program and “hiring, maintaining, supporting and staying out of the way of an outstanding staff.”
Farlow is also a member of the Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership and Thrive 2055 Board, an organization that supports regional collaboration, innovation and excellence, encompassing 16 counties within 3 states centered on Chattanooga. He also served as the chairman of the Thrive Economic Development Initiative. He serves on the board of the Bradley/Cleveland Industrial Community Board, Cleveland/Bradley Chamber Economic Development Council, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Board, Partnership in Industry and Education (PIE Center), Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Executives, Lee University School of Business - Business Advisory Council, Business Roundtable, the Tennessee Advisory Task Force on General Aviation Airports, and a member of the Kiwanis Cleveland Club. Farlow was a recipient of the 2009 Fred Harris Professional of the Year award by the Tennessee Economic Development Council where he also served as president in 2014. He also serves on the board of directors and the executive committee for the United Way of the Ocoee Region, past board member of MainStreet Cleveland and the Founder / Chairman of the Hiwassee River Blueway, an organization created to obtain National Water Trail designation for the Hiwassee River.
Farlow has lived in Tennessee for 40 years and is a native of Salisbury, Maryland. During his 39-year professional career he has been in Chamber work more than 29 years. Prior to his leadership positions with the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber, where he also served as vice president of Economic Development, he served as the president and CEO of the Green County Partnership in Greenville. Farlow also worked for the Blount County Chamber Partnership and Blount County Industrial Development Board in Maryville. He also worked as the city planner for the city of Maryville, director of Planning for the Blount County Planning Commission, the Knoxville/Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission, and the City of Knoxville Community and Economic Development Department.
“Chamber work is very gratifying, enjoyable and challenging,” he said about his years in Chamber management. “I’ll miss the great Chamber staff, however I’m confident they will continue to pursue programs beneficial to our members and the community. I’ve had the honor to work for and with some of the best businesspeople and community leaders that a community has to offer.”
Farlow and his wife, Sandy, a retired teacher from Cleveland Middle School, have been married for 45 years. The Farlows have two children — a son, Bryan, and daughter, Claire — along with two grandchildren, Elijah and Ben Sperry. The Farlows are active members of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and plan to continue to make their home in Cleveland.
“We’ll be able to spend more time with our grandchildren, and my hobbies and interests along with an ever growing project list at home.” Farlow expressed. “We look forward to many more years here living in a community where a person’s faith can be expressed in their professional and community life without reservation.”
According to Casteel, a search committee will convene to aggressively pursue filling the position. Also noting that his last day with the Chamber is March 29.
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