Business

Combining 'great job with family' prompts chamber's Derreberry to leave for South Carolina

In the end it was a growing Southeastern city, a warmer climate and the proximity of family that prompted Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Bryan Derreberry to pursue a job elsewhere

On Monday, Derreberry announced he was leaving the Wichita chamber to become the next president and CEO of the Charleston (S.C.) Metro Chamber of Commerce.

"When you're blessed with being able to combine a great job with family, it's pretty attractive," Derreberry said Monday.

Suzie Ahlstrand, a vice president and 24-year veteran of the Wichita chamber, will serve as interim president and CEO.

Lynn Nichols, chairman of the Wichita chamber, said an executive search firm will be retained to locate a replacement. Nichols expects the search to take at least six months.

"We're very happy for Brian and Gail (Derreberry's wife)," Nichols said. "Brian has done a great job here the last seven years."

Derreberry said in Charleston he and his wife will be within a three- to six-hour drive of both of their aging parents.

Derreberry will be in a metro area that has a $3 billion annual tourism industry, an established medical industry and a burgeoning aerospace cluster. In 2009, Boeing bought Vought Industries' North Charleston plant, which builds sections of the 787 Dreamliner. Boeing is building a 787 assembly plant there.

"It's an incredible business community," Derreberry said of the area, which has more than 644,000 residents.

Derreberry said he will start his new job in the last week of March.

He joined the Wichita chamber in 2003 after serving as president of the Catawba County (N.C.) Chamber of Commerce. During his time, he's had a hand in the startup and oversight of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, the creation of a 20-year Visioneering plan and the formation of Young Professionals of Wichita.

Nichols credited Derreberry with building a strong organization — staff and members — that will serve it well as it goes through the process of identifying and hiring a permanent CEO.

"We're not going to skip a beat here," Nichols said.

He said a search committee will be formed that will be led by Walter Berry, CEO of Berry Cos., who also is the chamber chairman for next year. Nichols, CEO of Yingling Aviation, will serve on the committee, as will Sam Williams, former chamber chairman and managing partner at Sullivan Higdon & Sink.

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