BRAWLEY — Brawley Chamber of Commerce CEO Katie B. Luna received an email stating she was being recognized as one of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives’ 40 Under 40.
The fall 2020 issue of ACCE’s 40 Under 40 recognizes the most talented professionals in the chamber industry, according to their website. Luna received the recognition with 39 other CEO or chamber of commerce staff professionals in the US and Canada out of 164 nominations “from a wide variety of roles and chamber sizes during a year that challenged us all,” according to the site.
“Essentially what we are trying to do is identify the top emerging leaders in the industry who have sort of showcased career success and impacted the communities themselves,” said William Burns, ACCE vice president of Communications and Networks.
“What we look for are chamber leaders who have shown creativity and innovation in the area that they serve,” he said. “Chamber leaders who are driving their chambers to the more mission-based operation related to community impact and community prosperity.”
Burns said in 2020 a lot of the 40 Under 40 nominations revolved around COVID response from the nominees and the activities chambers engaged in to support their local businesses and community members, “and that was one of the things that Board President Dr. Kathleen Lang pointed out about Katie in her letter.”
Lang, Brawley Chamber of Commerce board president who nominated Luna for the honor, said watching Luna take immediate action during the pandemic outbreak in March 2020 and develop a task force impressed her “with her ability to be so agile as to develop a path for local businesses to try and keep their heads above water.”
Lang said Luna was able to “break down some silos and bring people together,” including bringing stakeholders to the table for the first time, connecting other community entities to support local business in various ways, and connecting local businesses to federal, state, and local governments.
“Just watching her put all of those pieces together and formulate a weekly meeting and a coordinated effort with the County to address the impact of the virus on businesses made me want to give her the recognition that I felt was due for her reaction to the entire situation,” Lang said.
Lang said Luna’s united effort brought about a sense of calm and a feeling of “pulling together” for businesses “regardless of which agency or stakeholder was at the table,” particularly in the early days of the outbreak “when it was rather chaotic.”
“She was able to aggregate that information and put it out to the business community in a way that they could digest, respond to, and they could benefit from,” Lang said. “In the Valley, we struggle with that anyways — with unemployment and poverty rates and that type of thing — so if there's anything that can be done to help our businesses to be strong it's an important function that we (normally) just don't even think about.”
Luna said she was shocked, humbled, and grateful to receive the honor from ACCE, especially during the unprecedented challenges of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“From the moment I came into the Chamber, I had a three-year plan. We met and exceeded those goals, and we got to the fourth year and developed our new plan, and everything fell apart last year with COVID,” Luna said.
“This has been one of the most difficult years and one of the most blessed years for our Chamber for the fact that we have come back to the foundation of what we're here to do in serving our businesses,” she said.
“We can give back to our business community like we haven't (been able to) do in quite a while,” Luna said. “It’s been fulfilling.”