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the chamber's new leader brings on the business
Story by Audrey Hanes; photography by Amy Long

As the vice chancellor for finance and administration at Arkansas State University, Dr. Len Frey is responsible for overseeing a variety of financial and budgeting matters on the ASU-Jonesboro campus. Now, in his new role as the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2013-2014 board chairman, he will get an opportunity to further use his unique insight by giving back in a leadership role to the chamber and the area businesses it affects each day.

Frey, who earned his bachelor’s degree and MBA from ASU and his Ph.D. in business from the University of Memphis, is well-schooled in all things business related. After gaining business, administration and education experience along his career path, Frey returned to Jonesboro in 2000 as the department chair of management and marketing for the ASU College of Business. After being named the dean of the ASU College of Business in 2005, he became the vice chancellor for finance and administration in July 2012.

“I enjoy the challenges associated with growing the institution while managing limited resources,” said Frey. “Higher educational institutions across the United States are facing increasingly more difficult financial constraints. Chancellor Tim Hudson has challenged his leadership team to think creatively and lead differently in order to provide increasingly higher quality programs and exceptional service to our students, faculty and staff. Under Chancellor Hudson’s leadership, there is a level of excitement that I have never before experienced at A-State. It is fun going to work and being a part of a team that is making things happen.”

Although Frey says he misses being in the classroom and interacting with the students to the extent he once did, he is able to take advantage of occasional teaching and guest lecture opportunities.

“Being able to blend the academic and financial/administrative functions is most enjoyable,” he said.

Frey, whose duties at ASU include facilities management, information technology, human resource management, office of diversity and procurement services, is confident he will be able to apply those skills to his new leadership role at the chamber.

“Jonesboro is blessed to be the regional hub for healthcare, education, retail, manufacturing and numerous professional services,” said Frey. “My experience in higher education will allow me to provide unique insight into the role and impact that A-State has on the local and regional economy. My leadership style has always been one of encouragement and participation, and that is the role that I will play with the chamber board and committee chairs. We have a great chamber team; I will provide the team with encouragement and support then get out of their way and let them thrive.”

The Leadership Jonesboro graduate enjoys being involved in the community, including serving on numerous professional and advisory boards and in leadership capacities for civic and community organizations. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Southern Business Administration Association and is a member of the Arkansas District Export Council and the Jonesboro Church Health Center Board. He also serves on the governing board of St. Bernards Village.

In the past, Frey served on the UAMS/AHEC Northeast Advisory Board from 2009-2012; served as a past president of the Jonesboro University Rotary Club; a past assistant district governor, bulletin editor and district trainer for Rotary District 6150; and also served as the curriculum chair for Leadership Arkansas class of 2007-2008.

Prior to being named the chairman of the board, the longtime volunteer and board member with the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce served as treasurer from 2011-2012 and chairman-elect from 2012-2013.

“I have been a member of this community for over 30 years,” said Frey. “I have enjoyed experiencing first-hand the growth and development that has occurred during this time period. I am blessed to have been mentored by local community and business leaders over the years. It is my hope that I might in some small way contribute to the future of Jonesboro (just as) those who have mentored me.”

What makes Jonesboro so unique from a business perspective?
Simply stated, its people. We have a dedicated, hard-working workforce. We have an extraordinary medical community. We have a great university that is growing in national/ international reputation and that attracts quality arts and entertainment. We have a cooperative, progressive city and county government, we have a diverse manufacturing base, and we have excellent retail establishments. These factors, combined with a very affordable cost of living, make Jonesboro a unique place to do business.

What would you say are some of the most important benefits of being a member of the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce?
The mission of the chamber is to enhance the quality of life in Jonesboro and the surrounding region through service, leadership and economic development. When individuals participate with the chamber, they are contributing to the growth and quality of our community. Business After Hours is a great avenue to meet other business people who could become future customers. Power Breakfasts provide networking and community engagement opportunities. Business Expo provides exhibitors with exposure to thousands of people in one intimate setting. These are just a few of the many benefits of which chamber members may take advantage. The bottom line is that each of us working together can help make Jonesboro a more prosperous community.

What are your goals for your term as chairman? Are there any changes in store?
First and foremost, we want to continue to build upon the good work that Michael Givens began during his tenure as chairman, which included a focus on quality membership growth and strengthening the representation of small business. My primary goal beyond these two includes an enhanced focus on economic development and continuing to work toward identifying a sustainable source of funding for this vital activity. Jonesboro has enjoyed extraordinary economic success over the past two decades thanks to the efforts of many far-sighted community leaders of the past. We cannot rest on our laurels, and we must continue to aggressively support economic development activities today in order that the next generation of Jonesboro residents might enjoy a similar quality of life as we have experienced.