Sara Rankin took over the CEO's chair at the Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday, the latest career move for the former director of marketing and communications with the South Dakota Municipal League.
"While I lived in Rapid City, for eight years (I) worked for the Chamber of Commerce there and I loved working in the chamber world," Rankin told the Capital Journal on Monday. "I was the director of events and really had a passion for it, (I) wanted to get back into the chamber again."
Rankin, who attended Black Hills State and West Dakota Tech, said she didn't know much about how chambers of commerce worked until she joined Rapid City's in 2008. But from there, she was hooked by the impact the chamber had on local businesses and citizens.
"When I was in college, the chamber had never crossed my mind," Rankin said. "But it only took a short amount of time in working in this community of people to find out that it was definitely something that I was very passionate about."
Rankin spoke fondly of her career with the chamber, noting that "each day you do something a little bit different that solidifies why you do what you do."
"And that is exactly where my eight years at the chamber took me," Rankin said. "With a little break to do a couple of other things, I realized that the chamber world and the work that the chamber does is something I really missed."
Coming out of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rankin said one of the biggest goals for the chamber is to make sure its members are "thriving."
"I think that the chamber really crushed that goal during the pandemic and gave them the resources they needed to really succeed in an unprecedented time," she said, though she believes a workforce shortage will still affect local businesses in the coming year.
"I think right now the chamber is a well-oiled machine," Rankin said. "It's in great working form and so I think I'm going to work with the resources I've been left, with the team, and we're going to continue to work toward our mission and our values and our strategic goals, and that's really, right now, what our foresight is."
Rankin added that she is "very grateful" for her latest opportunity and looks forward to working Pierre and Fort Pierre and the businesses they each support.
"I'm just looking forward to what the future has to bring," she said.