When Mel Thomas first moved to the Space Coast from New Orleans two years ago with her husband, Matthew, it just so happened that the Melbourne Regional Chamber (MRC) was looking for a fresh approach to business development. Thomas brought to the table many years of experience with other chambers, as well as two decades in the hospitality industry at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Drury Hotels, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. Thomas’ new perspective on partnerships, investors, board development, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has brought new life to the 96-year-old organization, said President & CEO Michael Ayers. Emphasizing a hospitality approach over the traditional chamber membership model, Thomas has carved a niche for the MRC as a “business concierge” for its partners and investors. In December 2020, she earned a promotion from director to vice president of business development.
Finding her niche in “BD” was easy. “Honestly, this work chose me,” Thomas said. “I always wondered where I would eventually end up and assumed it would be in the hospitality industry. I was heavily involved in chambers of commerce during my hotel days and credited my success to the various chambers and business organizations I partnered with and the professional connections I made there. The chambers allowed me to grow and promote my personal and professional brands in various markets. So, when I moved to Melbourne and saw this position available, I didn’t hesitate.”
Michelle Salyer joined the MRC team in January 2021 as vice president of communications and marketing, marking the first time the chamber has employed an executive-level communications professional. Salyer was a natural choice, said Ayers, as she had served on the chamber’s board of directors and marketing committee for several years. She brings to the role more than 25 years of experience in advertising, PR and marketing for attractions, destinations, and nonprofits. Her past work includes some of Central Florida’s best-known brands – Visit Orlando, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy – as well as global corporations like Eddie Bauer and Edelman. Since joining the MRC leadership team, Salyer has hit the ground running in “elevating the chamber brand” and is driving a dedicated effort to revamp, redesign and refresh what it means to be a Melbourne Regional Chamber partner.
Although she wasn’t looking for a job change when the chamber came calling, it’s been a seamless transition. “I’ve worked in many different organizations and worn many different hats over the years, but in any new role, I look for opportunities to be creative and to make an impact – and I’ve found both at the Melbourne Regional Chamber.”
Ayers said, “I could not be more excited about the direction in which the Melbourne Regional Chamber is moving, including the addition of Mel and Michelle to chamber leadership. It’s a dream team for sure.”
Photo credit: Jason Christopher Hook
Makeup artistry: Makeup by Darcy