When Max Anderson was named the new Executive Director of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, it was hard to tell who was more pleased: Doug Luciani, who hired him, or Anderson himself. “When I called him and told him he didn’t hesitate. He said, ‘All right, when do I start?’ He jumped on it. We’re very excited,” Luciani says.
For his part, Anderson couldn’t wait to get started. “I love Traverse City, I love the people,” he says. His hiring was the culmination of a process that took nearly seven months from when Laura Oblinger stepped down at the end of May. It was posted in October and Anderson was immediately interested. “The position intrigued me when it came open,” he says. “I want to see Traverse City be a model (community). I want people to say, ‘I want to be the next Traverse City.’”
The selection of Anderson was based on a number of factors, according to Luciani, CEO of TraverseCONNECT, the parent organization of the Chamber and its partner business financing organization, Venture North Funding & Development. “His enthusiasm, his energy and his passion for the work—all those things took Max to the top of the group,” Luciani says. Anderson was chosen from a field of 37 who were vying for the position, over half of whom hailed from outside the five-county region of Northern Michigan. “We took that as a very positive sign as to how the chamber is perceived, how the area is perceived,” Luciani says.
The decision has been overwhelmingly positively received, Luciani adds “You always worry about the reaction.” He related how on his first day on the job, a longtime Chamber member came in and told him why he was leaving the organization. “He said he wanted to tell me ‘face-to-face why I’m quitting the chamber. It’s because they hired the wrong person.’ So people let you know if you don’t make the right (choice),” Luciani says with a laugh. “Since we’ve hired Max, we’ve heard what a great guy he is. People have come out of the woodwork.”
Anderson brings to the position experience in a number of areas, from finance to sales and service. Most recently he was a branch manager for Fifth Third Bank in Petoskey. He also worked as a banker for JP Morgan Chase Bank from 2011 to early 2014, and before that worked as a regional customer service manager for Schwan’s Home Service in Traverse City. He credits much of his success to his time at Schwan’s, where he delivered frozen foods to customers’ homes. “I loved it. I’d visit people every two weeks,” he says, becoming a familiar face to the families he served. “I became someone the kids knew, would run out to see. It was as personal as possible.” He also saw banking as a personal business. “It’s also about relationships,” he says, whether it was personal banking or business banking.
Anderson, 30, grew up in Suttons Bay. He attended Northwestern Michigan College where he got his Associates’ Degree before earning a Bachelor’s Degree in University Studies from Western Michigan University. He is also a graduate of the Chamber’s Leadership Grand Traverse program and serves on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan. He volunteers with the local United Way chapter, the American Cancer Society and Habitat for Humanity. He’s an Eagle Scout and serves on the Boy Scouts of America Explorer Advisory Council. Anderson lives in Kingsley with his wife, Caitlin, and 3-year-old daughter Evelyn.
Though he’s only been in the role a very short time, Anderson has already fit in well, according to Luciani. “It’s been a truly nice surprise he already has such an extensive network. A lot of people know him and like him,” Luciani says. “It’s like he’s been here a year and a half.”
Anderson feels the same way. “What I did at the bank is similar to the chamber. My first priority is to take care of the members, listen to them and build new relationships. Down the road, I want to communicate the value the chamber has to offer. The chamber is a living, breathing organism.”
The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce started in 1915 and is Michigan’s third-largest chamber, serving nearly 1,900 businesses in the Grand Traverse region.