LINCOLNTON – After a lengthy search, the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce has hired Doug Croft as its new president.
“My father was a chamber executive,” Croft said. “I never really intended to follow in his footsteps, but I was in Indianapolis and I couldn’t stand my job, so my wife said that we should move back to North Carolina. That’s when I thought that maybe I could land a job with some chamber back home at least until we got settled, but I ended up being there for over 25 years.”
Croft, a North Carolina native, spent more than 25 years at the helm of the Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce prior to moving to Texas in 2016 to lead the Weslaco Area Chamber of Commerce.
“What I enjoy so much about chamber work is the people that I get to work with,” Croft said. “That’s the staff at the chamber, but also business owners in the community with a wide variety of needs from large industries to smaller mom-and-pop shops and everything in between. I’ve been able to learn a lot from those positive interactions with a lot of different people over the past 30 years.”
Now, after two years in Texas, Croft has decided to return to his home state following the retirement of longtime Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce President Ken Kindley.
“I work for a paycheck, but anyone who works in the not-for-profit sector does it because they also believe in the mission,” Croft said. “This might sound cliche, but when I come to work everyday I want to move the ball forward, and to me that’s about growing the community, strengthening the local economy and enhancing the quality of life. I get a paycheck, but I also get to go to bed every night knowing that I helped a business in the community accomplish something.”
Kindley served as the face of the chamber in Lincoln County for over three decades, so changes in the operation of the organization are inevitable. Croft boasts quite an extensive resume as well, and that experience has prepared him for the work that lies ahead.
“In Thomasville, we got a building donated to us and launched a capital fundraising campaign to help renovate that building and implement some new programs,” Croft said. “We were able to raise $1 million in the midst of the worst part of the Great Recession, and it’s not just that that $1 million figure sounded good, but it let me know that the people in the community trusted me. They gave to the organization, but they only gave to the organization because they trusted its leader, so I took that to heart and tried to deliver on what they charged us to do with those significant funds.”
Croft landed a job in Lincoln County upon graduating from Western Carolina University, so while he’s no stranger to the area, he couldn’t believe how much the community had grown since his departure in the 1980s.
“About four years ago, I was trying to convince the Thomasville city leadership to invest in some new business parks,” Croft said. “That’s when somebody told me I needed to come check out the business parks in Lincoln County. I brought a busload of business leaders and elected officials over from Thomasville and I was floored by what we saw. That really got my attention and I probably wouldn’t even have considered this position had I not seen the progress that’s been made in Lincoln County.”
Croft’s first day on the job was Monday, Jan. 7, and he plans to spend the next few months introducing himself to the community in an effort to find out where the chamber can be most helpful.
“The foundation of my work is going to be connecting with others in the community during these early stages,” Croft said. “I’ve done a lot of chamber work, and while each chamber has a similar mission, every community is unique. My first priority is to get to know as many people as I can and find out where I can help in this community. I expect that I’ll probably sit down and talk to at least 75-100 people over these next few months so that I can get a feel for this community because this isn’t a short-term deal for me.”