Amherst chamber boss Pazmany to step down




Staff Writer

Published: 02-08-2024 8:42 PM

AMHERST — In a region where most businesses are small, with 20 or fewer employees, having an organization to advocate on their behalf, help market them and assist them through unforeseen challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic is critical, says Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Claudia Pazmany.

“Thinking of new ways to bring as much value and support to our small businesses has, and will continue to be, a driver at this chamber,” Pazmany said. “They are looking to us for it.”

When February ends, though, after actively pushing for policies and changes to build business and community that leave the chamber poised for success, Pazmany is returning to the field of philanthropy.

“I am leaving it set up for success. That said, retail and tourism and agri-tourism still need a boost and I am leaving with the hope that plans for that will help in the near future,” Pazmany said.

Coming to the position 5½ years ago from being director of development and marketing for Providence Ministries in Holyoke, with almost 20 years of marketing and fundraising experience, Pazmany brought stability to the position, increasing membership and enhancing the partnership with the Amherst Business Improvement District, on both providing relief through the pandemic and launching the “What’s Next Greater Amherst” marketing campaign.

“I believe in the power of a chamber, its ability and power to connect, collaborate and be a true catalyst for change and growth in the business community,” Pazmany wrote in a statement released by the chamber. “I especially believe in our Amherst Area Chamber and all its capacity to connect the communities it serves.”

Pazmany said she and her husband will remain in Amherst and continue to support local businesses.

Her announcement comes two weeks after Gabrielle Gould announced she would be leaving her position as executive director of the Amherst BID this month, meaning that both offices in the Visitor Information Center will be without a leader. They have both been praised for limiting the number of vacant storefronts in Amherst, even as the town has been without an economic development director since early 2020. Pazmany’s role also has extended to neighboring communities, with chamber members coming from Hadley, as well as Belchertown, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury and Sunderland.

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Since Pazmany started in August 2018, the chamber’s 340 members has grown to more than 400. Pazmany took over at a time when the chamber had been without a permanent executive director for almost a year, and the previous two directors had been in the role for two years or less.

Heidi Flanders, president of the directors for the chamber, is assuring members that full staffing and programs and events will continue during the transition. The chamber board is launching its search for successor immediately.

“We want to wish Claudia the best as she pursues the next chapter in her journey and returns to her roots in philanthropy,” Flanders said.

Pazmany said the annual Margarita Madness, golf tournament and A+ Awards have all grown in recent years, and she has left a year of “Elevate & Educate” scheduled events, monthly “After 5” networking events, new monthly workshops and seminars, monthly coffee connects and storefront exhibits for small businesses.

Pazmany also established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force and curated new events, such as the “Launching Women Series,” along with a series of multi-chamber events.

Before leaving, Pazmany thanked Gould, along with John Page, the former membership and marketing manager, current staff members Heather Hamel and Laura Marks, the BID team with Liz Larson and Joan Temkin, and the town’s representatives to the state Legislature.