Karen Handel has been selected by the leadership of Carroll Tomorrow as the economic development organization’s new president and chief executive officer.
She will also serve as president and CEO for the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce. This week’s announcement was made by Loy Howard, chair of the Carroll Tomorrow Board of Directors, following an extensive executive search process.
“Early in the process, the search committee identified several key traits we were looking for in a candidate,” said Howard. “The ability to develop and execute Carroll Tomorrow’s vision for the community was at the top of that list. Leadership was also a very strong component. The board believes Karen has the ability and experience to lead our organization forward, elevating Carroll County, maintaining existing jobs, and creating new opportunities. She will continue to work with local elected leaders to build a business-friendly environment. Carroll County is already a great place to live, work, and play – a ‘county of opportunity;’ we are excited about the future of Carroll County.”
Established in 2001, Carroll Tomorrow is a unique countywide public-private economic development organization that serves as the staff for Carroll County’s four industrial development authorities. Along with city and county leaders, Carroll Tomorrow works closely with state economic developers and site selection consultants to support the expanding existing businesses and recruit new companies to the area, creating new career opportunities for area residents. The economic development initiative is a “one-stop- shop” for businesses seeking growth opportunities.
The Carroll County Chamber of Commerce has been the economic engine for the community since 1955. Today, the chamber enjoys the success of an organization with nearly six hundred members, an active board of directors, and talented staff. The chamber executes the annual plan through a committee structure with seven standing committees and other ad hoc committees as needed.
“I am excited to join this team to help build on the tremendous successes of both Carroll Tomorrow and the Chamber to make Carroll County an even better place for families and businesses,” Handel stated.
Handel currently serves as president of Cogent Strategies providing strategic counsel on business, public policy, and communication matters. She served as president and CEO of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce in Alpharetta from 2000 until 2003.
On the national level, Handel served as a member of the US House of Representatives from 2017 until 2019. She also served as Georgia’s Secretary of State for four years and chaired the Fulton County Board of Commissioners for three years. Under former Governor Sonny Perdue, she was deputy chief of staff and extremely involved with economic development initiatives around Georgia.
“The opportunity to lead an economic development organization and chamber of commerce as a destination for business and community development is a challenge that I am prepared to tackle,” Handel said. “I believe my experiences on the local, state, and national levels will add value to the investors and community as a whole. I plan on Carroll County being my home for a long time.”
The president of Carroll Tomorrow is responsible for providing leadership, long-term visioning, strategic planning, and implementation for the economic development organization and chamber of commerce. With a professional team on both sides, the executive works with boards from both groups to execute plans designed to maintain and grow existing businesses, nurture entrepreneurship, and attract new investments for Carroll County.
Daniel Jackson, who has been affiliated with the economic development organization and chamber since 2001, retired at the end of March as president and chief executive officer.
Handel and her husband, Steve, will be moving to Carroll County in the next few months. Her first day at Carroll Tomorrow will be July 6.
Serving on the search committee for Carroll Tomorrow, along with Howard, were: Dr. Mark Albertus, Carrollton City Schools; Ben Butler, Carrollton Orthopaedic Clinic; Kirby Butler, United Community Bank; Jill Duncan, State Farm Insurance; Nick Martin, Georgia Power Company; Bill Stone, Systems & Methods, Inc.; and Tim Warren, United Community Bank.
Other members of the Carroll Tomorrow and Carroll County Chamber professional team include J.R. Charles, vice president of economic development; Joan Finch, information specialist, and Drugs Don’t Work coordinator; Suzy McCorkel, director of member engagement; Suzy Montalto, director of operations; and Rhyne Owenby, director of business development.
Carroll Tomorrow engaged The Chason Group to lead the executive search process. The firm, which is Georgia-based, specializes in executive searches for economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, foundations, and other non-profits.