For Gary Plummer, the new Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce president, returning to Missouri came as a coincidence.
Plummer, who started at the beginning of April, served as the Capital City's chamber president from 1988-97.
His wife, Dana, and two sons recently restarted a Jefferson City staple. When he learned the chamber was looking for a new president, it seemed like the stars were aligning.
Plummer was president and CEO of Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce in Wichita, Kansas, when about eight months ago, his family purchased a food truck and reopened Pizza Kwik.
Dana's parents ran the Jefferson City restaurant, formerly on East Miller Street, for 50 years. Her father died several years ago; her mother is now living in Jefferson City again.
When Dana, along with their sons, Sam and Ethan, decided to reopen it as a food truck, they started splitting time between Wichita and Jefferson City, Plummer said, but realized 90 percent of their business was here because of the name recognition.
"They stopped working in Wichita and started working exclusively in Jefferson City and got an apartment here," Plummer said. "This was all going on about the same time the chamber was going through its transition here.
"I said 'maybe the stars are lining up for us a little bit, and I should try for that job,'" he said.
Plummer joins the team with experience separating a chamber of commerce from an economic development organization, something the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce is currently working through.
In his most recent position, Plummer oversaw a similar transition at the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce.
"That's giving us a great opportunity to kind of re-examine what our mission is," Plummer said of the transition. "I can just say from my experience, and from the conversations I've had with probably three dozen community leaders since arriving here it's all about providing great services to small businesses — deliver value and training and resources to them — because that's the majority of our members."
Plummer said the process is ongoing as staff figures out how the two organizations can share space, people and resources.
However, the chamber's focus is on supporting area businesses through serving as voice for them, offering leadership development and educational opportunities.
For instance, Plummer said, the chamber represents the local business community at local, state and federal government levels.
When it comes to leadership development, the chamber plans to continue offering two programs: Leadership Jefferson City and Young Professionals.
Leadership Jefferson City is a community orientation and leadership training program, Plummer said, and has been part of the community for more than 30 years.
The Young Professionals program includes about 250 local young business leaders for networking, professional development and community service projects.
Another key part of the chamber's work is Partners in Education, which matches businesses with school buildings in an adopt-a-school-style program.
The chamber can also help be a bridge between businesses and area educational institutions. Plummer said that comes through listening to what businesses say they need and communicating that need with schools.
He said COVID-19 has changed how the chamber works because it had to learn to conduct business virtually.
"A lot of people running their own businesses have a hard time getting away, and so they can participate virtually," Plummer said. "Many times, that's the only way they can do it. So, I think you're going to see some of those techniques continue for the foreseeable future."
Additionally, he said, he thinks the pandemic shows people how relevant and important chambers can be for businesses, and he wants to see those connections continue.
"We want to continue that momentum and understand their needs and deliver on those," he said. "I think that's going to be an area of renewed emphasis for us."
Outside of work, Plummer said, he enjoys golfing and spending time with his family. Along with his two sons in Jefferson City, he has a daughter in Tulsa and one in southern California.
"One of the things I love to brag about is I have two holes in one," Plummer said. "One in California and one in Missouri."
Plummer grew up in Iowa, where his father was a teacher and coach. After some time in journalism, he moved into chamber work and finished a degree in political science.
Plummer said he's excited to get back to Jefferson City and work with the staff.
"I would say that working relationships with a staff is really very gratifying," he said. "I'm really lucky to have five great staff members here who are very dedicated to the chamber."