MURRAY — “To this place and the kindness of these people, I owe everything.”
This quote is attributed to Abraham Lincoln as he prepared to leave Springfield, Illinois to perform his new duties as America’s 16th president. It is also the quote that Michael Stanger chose in his first address as the chairman of the Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors that came as part of the chamber’s annual Business Celebration on the Murray State University campus.
“Truer words do not exist for me,” Stanger told the large crowd gathered that night on the floor of the CFSB Center, going back to a year earlier when he was approached about taking the position for fiscal year 2020 by chamber President and CEO Michelle Bundren and the person he is succeeding, LaCosta Hays.
“I said, ‘absolutely I will,’ and quickly some self doubt started to creep in. Who am I and what could I possibly offer this room of both business and community leaders? Then I quickly remembered that my story is worth telling.”
Though not born in Calloway County, Stanger has spent most of his life in that community. It was just before he turned 8 that his family moved from the northwestern suburbs of Chicago to “the northwest suburbs of Murray, a little town called Kirksey.”
“Talk about culture shock,” he said, drawing hearty laughter from the audience. “But Murray has a funny way of growing on you and, before I knew it, I was talking like ya’ll talk. I said that right, didn’t I? Ya’ll?”
He would graduate from Calloway County High School in 2003, then moved on to Murray State, where he would meet his wife. They have gone on to have three children together. After graduating, he moved into the real estate business with he and brother Ryan eventually purchasing an agency. They are now partners with SBG Real Property Professionals of Murray.
And, with that, Michael returned to the Lincoln quote.
“To this place and the kindness of its people, I owe everything and Murray is home,” he said. “But outside of how Murray makes me feel and makes us feel, Murray continues to be a leader and example in our region. Our population continues to increase, our unemployment remains one of the lowest in the state and we continue to be increasingly competitive in creating new businesses, both large and small. I’m very excited about the direction of the chamber over the next 12 months.”
Stanger is coming into the chair’s position at a time of strong enthusiasm for the chamber. The Business Celebration was just days after the chamber earned a national Chamber or the Year honor for the second time since 2012. However, Stanger is quite familiar with the effort that was required for that second national title, having served on the chamber board the past four years.
“Our strategic plan and priorities continue to center around you, our members, around business and around our community. We will continue to foster conversations about workforce initiatives, about talent retention and about leadership,” he said. “We will continue to support business growth and business development. My goal in the next 12 months is to continue to achieve levels that you’ve come to expect and continuing what this chamber and the board in particular has done for a long time.”
Michael also took time to recognize outgoing board members Kathy Stanfa and Jim Taylor and the people who will take their spots on the board, Dr. Jesse Williams and Cui Liu.
“To each of you, I cannot say thank you enough for your service. We will continue to be an advocate and champion for the business community,” he said.