New Chamber chairman aims to maintain momentum
Published: Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 6:01 p.m.
As the 2013 chairman of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Mitch Glaeser said his main thrust is to maintain momentum as the organization continues to work closely with different stakeholders throughout the community for economic development.
Occupation: Vice president of business development, The Emory Group; chairman, Gainesville Area Chamber of commerce.
Dream partner for lunch: Ben Franklin or Warren Buffett.
Last book read: “Awesomely Simple” by John Spence.
Hobbies: Golfing, wine making, traveling or anything adventurous.
“The companies we’re currently talking to, organically growing, coming out of incubators, as well as companies looking to locate here are at an unprecedented level,” he said. “We want to keep that going because those are the kind of jobs that we can really benefit from.”
Past leadership has already set a course for the Chamber to have more influence than it has had in a long time, Glaeser said.
The Chamber plans to be part of the community discussion on several vital issues, including energy costs, water supply, and school readiness and job preparation in K-12 education.
The organization has already started trying to influence the discussion ahead of plans for the Alachua County Commission to revisit the transportation sales tax, pushing for transparency, expressing concern about the cost and feasibility of bus rapid transit and supporting improvements in bus service to underserved areas.
Glaeser has some ideas of his own for the community, which include “planting the seeds” for an arena and convention center, a design contest for the Interstate 75 overpasses at the north and south end of the county, and a low-frequency radio station that would promote local shopping and culture.
Although Glaeser is probably best known in his role as head of Glaeser Realty, the company started by his parents, Ralph and Joan Glaeser, 50 years ago, that is just one company under the umbrella of The Emory Group, a family-owned company that includes ownership of the Tower Center; the Logo Kick apparel screen-printing and embroidery business; and a renovated hotel and several commercial buildings in Falls City, Neb.
Glaeser said part of what drives him is an untraditional upbringing that included 76 foster children coming through his parents’ home over 30 years. As the youngest of four brothers in a house that also included an adopted sister and two cousins, he said he learned how to work hard to get what he wanted, how to communicate and how to build relationships.
“Our mother had us convinced that if our dreams didn’t scare us, we weren’t dreaming big enough. That drives to the heart of why I get so passionate about what I do. I think some of the outcomes I have enjoyed in my life have certainly come from that sort of philosophy.”
Glaeser got his real estate license at 18 and started in sales for his parents’ company. At 19, he was a partner in opening the Alluring Profiles day spa, handling rezoning, design and construction.
Two years later, he helped open Collins Court, an adult congregate living facility, as president of Contemporary Care.
Glaeser twice ran for office and lost, first in a City Commission race against Rodney Long in 1990. After serving as legislative coordinator pushing the Motor Voter Bill for Common Cause, he ran for Alachua County Supervisor of Elections in 1992 and lost to Beverly Hill.
In both races, he was endorsed by The Gainesville Sun, and immediately after his last election he was offered a job by former Publisher John Fitzwater on the sales team of the new Source Book phone directory. He became regional sales manager as new directories opened in different cities and was named general manager within a year. Glaeser resigned shortly after the company sold the publications and was immediately offered a job as a motivational speaker, training phone book sales people around the world.
He was conducting a session on goal setting on 9/11. After watching news of the World Trade Center attacks, Glaeser said participants changed their goals from tangible things like a new house to spending more time with their kids.
“They said ‘We would like an opportunity to get our goals back. We have rethought what is important,’ ” Glaeser said. “I tell that story some to get people to dial in, to think about ‘What do you want your relationships to look like? What do you want your future to look like? What quality of life do you want to live?’ It gets people to really think hard.”
Travel also became more difficult after 9/11, and Glaeser came off the road after three years and started his own phone directory, the MEGA Book, an acronym of Mitch E. Glaeser Associates. After 30 months, the company had $5 million in revenue and Glaeser got an offer he said he couldn’t ignore to sell to the Hearst Corporation.
The Nebraska hotel redevelopment project came after he met the economic development director for Richardson County, Neb., at a Berkshire-Hathaway stockholders meeting in Omaha.
The mayor of Falls City declared “Mitch Glaeser Day” at a ceremony that included the governor, a college band and about 200 people.
“There was an allure of, ‘Hey, we want you here’ and that was new to me because I don’t hear that a lot here locally, quite honestly,” he said. “I think that’s one aspect that we have to do as a Chamber and also as a community to make sure we do roll out the red carpet for people and that they are engaged, and we do get the message out that they’re welcome to do business here in the Gainesville region.”
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