Incoming Denton Chamber of Commerce President Erin Carter did not always envision herself as working in the chamber business. An Arizona native and the daughter of retired special educators, she studied speech and hearing science at the University of Arizona. But when she graduated in 2009, she realized that career path was not for her.
She took a chance and applied to a master’s program at the University of North Texas, where she studied women’s and gender studies and nonprofit management. She attended her first chamber event on behalf of an organization she was interning at — and the rest is history.
“The first chamber event I went to ever was with the Denton chamber, one of their women in business events at TWU, and I had never been to a Chamber of Commerce event in my entire life,” Carter said. “After graduate school, I was hired by the Lewisville chamber, and I thought, ‘You know, there’s something really special about this industry.’ It gets to serve every business that not only needs help but needs time to explore how they can better their businesses to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to be employed and to build the next tomorrow, whether it’s a family-run business, a corporate-run business or any business in between.”
After nine years in the industry, Carter will lead the Denton chamber beginning July 6, leaving her current role as president of the Metrocrest Chamber of Commerce, which she has held since 2016. Metrocrest serves businesses in Addison, Carrollton and Farmers Branch.
For Carter, the move will bring her full circle.
“I moved to the state of Texas in 2009, and my first home in Texas was in Denton, so I’ve been a resident of Denton County my entire time in the state,” Carter said. “I got into the chamber world in Denton. It’s an excellent time to come back — it just felt right.”
While Carter says she enjoys the excitement of chamber life, what drives her is a desire to serve.
“I didn’t go into public education, but I see it as I grew up with helpers, and although I’m not helping students, I’m helping the pipeline from education to workforce, so I’m excited to be in a community that has two major universities as well as NCTC, and just making sure the next generation has an opportunity to build their tomorrow as well,” Carter said.
Though she is excited to lead the Denton chamber, Carter said she isn’t ready to commit to a concrete list of action items without first hearing from chamber leadership and Denton businesses.
“I’m going to really slow dance my way in and work with the board on a 90-day plan to truly learn the organization inside and out, and then get to work on the immediate needs,” Carter said. “That sounds kind of just like a very vague answer, but I don’t want to make any false claims that I don’t want to keep because the worst thing you can do is over-promise and under-deliver. I’m excited to learn, and what I would tell any business owner or leader is my door will always be open, and I am incredibly interested in feedback that they may have about the business community or the Chamber of Commerce — we can only get better if we know.”
One thing she does plan to focus on is helping businesses understand employee needs to address the hiring shortages some businesses are facing.
“I think one of the things we’ve seen as business communities across this country is business owners and business leaders are very anxious to get employees back to work, and we really have to help them, as a business advocacy organization, get people working again,” Carter said.
In the meantime, Carter is wrapping up her days at Metrocrest, where she will remain through the end of June. Though she and her husband are already Denton County residents — they live in Carrolton — they have been exploring Denton and plan to move here in the next year since, for Carter, living in the city she serves is “essential.”
Wherever her new role leads her, Carter said she will continue to follow the compass that has guided her back to Denton and her chamber roots.
“I went out on a limb and applied to graduate school at UNT, and I knew no one, and now looking back on it, I would never do that today, but I think that it was the right fit because it brought me here,” Carter said. “I’ve made some of the best friends in my life, I’ve met my husband here, and I’ve built a community around myself.
“I am a firm believer that everything happened for a reason, and I think my life took me on a path I was supposed to go down. I’ve been very blessed along the way to meet the right people at the right time, and I’ve lived a life I’m very proud of, so I’m excited to continue living a life that gives me new opportunities and takes me in new directions.”