A New Leader for Business
Susan Freeman is the new executive director of Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce.
Susan Freeman, who took over as executive director of Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce in June, has plans to unearth the hidden gems in Brunswick County. “I love going into the community and learning about it,” she says.
Case in point was her time spent in Tarboro, North Carolina, as director of Edgecombe County Tourism Development Authority, one of her responsibilities as executive director of Tarboro Edgecombe Chamber of Commerce. When Freeman learned that Tarboro’s Town Common, established in 1760, is the second oldest legislated common and the only remaining original common on the East Coast after Boston, she helped get the word out about the town’s unique feature.
“You should never keep a secret like that one,” Susan Freeman told officials in Tarboro. “People should know about it.”
Freeman held the position of events and membership director at Avery County Chamber of Commerce from 2005 to 2009 then took its executive director post before heading to the Tarboro Edgecombe Chamber in 2014. Now the petite woman with contagious enthusiasm has started her quest to absorb as much as possible about her new Brunswick County territory.
“There are some great businesses here,” she says. “I am looking forward to getting out there, meeting more of our members, learning what they need and learning the culture in the wintertime.”
Freeman credits Shannon Viera, former Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce executive director, with leaving a solid foundation. “This is a well-run chamber, but we’re going to implement new strategies,” she says. “We’re going to let everybody know we’re here and increase the benefits of being a chamber member by expanding services.”
Freeman is impressed with the chamber board because it represents several aspects of the county. “That’s good because you’re getting the whole footprint,” she says, adding, “The board is hands-on business owners involved in the community.”
Tori Humphrey, chair of Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce and co-owner of Seaside Appraisals and Realty Centre in Ocean Isle Beach, respects Freeman’s credentials. “She has experience in a resort area, so she understands how that works, and she had the Wooly Worm Festival [in Avery County], which draws in a huge number of vendors,” Humphrey says, indicating that Freeman appreciates how the Oyster Festival works.
“Her bubbly personality fits with our area,” Humphrey adds. “She has a heart for membership, which is key. We have an area that is growing. It is exciting to see that she is focusing on increasing membership.”
Freeman has a record of increasing membership at both the Tarboro Edgecombe and Avery County chambers.
Jessica Gallant, membership director at the Brunswick Chamber, says she likes everything about working with Freeman. “We get along very well,” she says. “I couldn’t have picked anyone else better to work with.”
A Pennsylvania native, Freeman grew up in Williamsport. Her father was an independent truck driver, and her mother owned a full-service beauty salon. “She taught me everything about the business, but I never proceeded with it,” Freeman says. “I went on to other things.”
Freeman worked in retail management, the dental field and school systems. Her job as volunteer coordinator with Habitat for Humanity took her to Avery County. “I always wanted to work for Habitat for Humanity,” she says. “I was afforded many opportunities to find positions that allowed me to work around my children’s schedules, and over the years the experiences all led to another great opportunity.”
Freeman and her husband, George, who works in corporate safety for QVC in Florence, South Carolina, have four grown daughters and two grandchildren. “We’re only two hours from one daughter and our grandbabies (Hayden, 2, and Ryan, 1). They are the love of my life.”
In her spare time, Freeman enjoys hiking, and her favorite place to hike is Grandfather Mountain. “Our house in Boone overlooks the Grandfather Mountain profile,” she says.
In Brunswick County she plans to spend more time on the beach. “I love the beach. I love the mountains. I love being outside,” she says.
Meeting the needs of the growing population and making sure the chamber is connected to the people are Freeman’s primary concerns. “Shallotte is like a business hub,” she says and explains that new homeowners do not have to leave the county for their construction needs. “Not all beach communities are like that. They just have the beach. They don’t have all the business connections we have in Shallotte.”
Dedicated to serving the needs of the community, Freeman says she has a stock phrase: “What can we do for you?” She urges residents to contact her with their concerns. “If someone says, ‘I wish the chamber would do this for us,’ I’d love to hear from that person,” she says.
She also wants to make connections with the regional chambers. “We are better and stronger when we all work together,” she says. “It’s a team effort here.”