By John Schaffner

The Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce (SSPC) has tapped the former executive director of the Georgia Industry Association (GIA), Sherian Wilburn, as its new executive director, to replace Donna Gathers who retired from the post on Feb. 29.

In her nine years of service to the Sandy Springs community, Gathers started as a volunteer with Sandy Springs Revitalization Inc. and saw a need for the businesses to have a voice in the community. She established the Sandy Springs Business Association, renamed the SSPC Jan 1, and grew it from just a few members to the 400 of today.

Gathers decided she needed a change in her life following the tragic accidental death of her son a year ago.

Wilburn, who officially started on the new job on March 3, is a Nationally Certified Economic Developer and has a masters degree in Urban & Regional Planning. To gain national certification as an economic developer, she had to have a number of years of experience, took a body of courses and passed a written and oral exam to become a member of the International Economic Development Council, the professional organization for economic developers. She said there are about 1,600 member nationwide.

At GIA, Wilburn represented the manufacturing industry in the state in a public policy and advocacy role.

Before her four-years as executive director of GIA, she spent a total of six years (four on staff as executive director and two as a consultant) with the Cherokee County Development Authority. Prior to that, Wilburn was a member of the Transportation Department management team for the city of Roswell from 1994-98. She resides in Roswell. She and her former husband previously had a transportation consulting firm.

Turning to her new role with the SSPC, Wilburn said, “I think this is really exciting.” Stating she is a planner at heart, Wilburn said, “There is a dynamic with a new community. I love community…My heart is in community. I think there is an incredible opportunity here,” she added.

“Sandy Springs is like a child learning to walk,” she explained. “I don’t mean that negatively. You are having to develop into a community. The thing that comes to my mind most about this chamber is building the business community and building community. Those two things support each other.”

She continued by saying, “A strong community supports a strong business environment. A strong business environment supports a strong community.”

Besides that, she added, “It has the potential for doing something that has long-term value, and I like that.”

Wilburn pointed to the Chattahoochee River as a demarcation line and said, “If you are a new community and trying to build community, I think the decision to develop a chamber is probably one of the best things. Chambers can be a dynamic force in helping to foster a good business community. I get the sense from the people I talk to here they are not interested in this being a social club, which fits with me very well.”