The Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce welcomed incoming 2024 Board Chair Stephen Perkins on Friday morning as he laid out goals aimed at cultivating the next generation of regional business leaders.
- Speaking to around 400 members gathered for the Chamber’s annual January breakfast, Perkins noted the unique dedication evidenced by such an early morning workday turnout.
“I don’t know if you realize this, but a gathering like this in a smaller city at 7 am on a workday, is not too common,” he said. “It is in fact very unique. For some of us, these events are a great opportunity for networking and building our businesses.”
Perkins moved to Fort Walton Beach 10 years ago and credited local business veterans for their stewardship. But he said ensuring new voices eventually take their place is imperative.
- “I witnessed that much of this spearheading and leadership came from well established, seasoned individuals that are namesakes in the community,” he remarked. “The only problem with that is, these staples of the community aren’t going to be around forever. We need to develop the next line of young businessmen and women who are going to take up the mantle.”
With a background as a self-described “huge car fanatic,” Perkins announced he is adopting “Keep Driving Forward” as the 2024 Chamber theme. He promised to accelerate outreach to young businesspeople and better incorporate them into its roster of movers and shakers in Fort Walton Beach.
Perkins said he was drawn himself to settle in the area after college by the welcoming nature of its business community.
- Now a tax manager with accounting firm Warren Averett LLC, his primary focus will be boosting participation of young professionals, who he said are currently underrepresented among Chamber membership and initiatives.
“We’ve got to get them here. Right now, I believe there’s a lack of representation of the young business men and women of this community, with few getting involved in Chamber events and taking leadership roles,” said Perkins. “As chair, I will make it a primary focus of mine to drive interest and involvement from young professionals.”