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After leading the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce as its president and CEO for seven years, Michael E. Dalby will end his local run on May 30 and return to his Texas roots.  

Dalby has accepted a position as assistant vice president of innovation, commercialization and economic development at the University of Texas at El Paso, which is the largest metropolitan area on the Texas-Mexico border and the 22nd largest city in the U.S. The position reports to the vice president and chief of staff of the university and provides leadership, oversight and management of all aspects of the university’s economic development initiatives and centers. The assistant vice president also simultaneously serves as the director of the endowed Mike Loya Center for Innovation and Commerce.  

With more than 1,600 members, the nonprofit Greater Naples Chamber is the largest of 25 chambers in the five-county region. Dalby said he is proud of the work the Chamber has done to assist hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses in Collier County and Southwest Florida. “Helping them grow and thrive and provide economic opportunity here,” he said. “(I) worked with an outstanding board of directors — so many individuals who care and give of their time, talent and treasure to build a strong and sustainable economy.”  

Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce CEO Michael Dalby

Michael Dalby

Chamber Board member Michael Wynn, president of Sunshine Ace Hardware, said Dalby decided to pursue a new opportunity in Texas that is going to work better for his family.  

“I’m disappointed to see him leave, but I know the Greater Naples Chamber has come a long way over the years and is an aspirational organization that will end up with a leader that will be appropriate for the goals that we have ahead of us,” Wynn said.  

Wynn didn’t know if the organization would hire a search firm or have a search committee to field applicants for a new CEO. Board Chair Julie Schmelzle, senior vice president of Bank of America, was out of town and could not be reached for comment about the search or whether an interim president will be named.  

Dan Lavender, CEO of Moorings Park, was chairman of the 2015-16 search committee that chose to hire Dalby. Lavender spoke highly of Dalby then and now.  

“Michael Dalby led the chamber to a firm financial footing following the Great Recession and led the charge on the sales tax initiative that created necessary funding for workforce housing, job training, mental health services and infrastructure,” he said. “He was a champion for making Collier County the best place to work, live, and play. The Chamber is thankful for his service and looking forward to building on his legacy to support the business community.”  

Hailing from Stephenville, Texas, Dalby is returning to his home state and some familiar territory. His first chamber job was in Alamogordo, New Mexico, not far from El Paso, and he also previously was president and CEO of the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce in central Texas. Since then, he had Midwestern leadership roles with a business growth association in southern Indiana and the Chamber of Commerce in Columbus, Ohio, before coming to Naples in March 2016 to replace John Cox, who was dismissed by the chamber in September 2015 following disputes over his management style.  

Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce CEO Michael DalbyIn addition to serving as president and CEO of the Greater Naples Chamber, Dalby also led its affiliated Leadership Collier Foundation and the Collier County Economic Development Office partnership. He has been active in economic development efforts, community policy engagement and government relations. Serving as the voice of local business, Dalby also has been the voice for a community busting at the seams with unparalleled population growth.  

“While that growth is undeniably good for our economy, it also continues to shine a light on the important infrastructure needs we face,” Dalby wrote in an opinion piece. “Roadways teem with congestion. Bridges require repair. Vulnerable populations need help. These infrastructure needs go beyond improving residents’ lives. They are also critical to the health and well-being of our economy.”  

Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce CEO Michael DalbyAlong those lines, Dalby and the Greater Naples Chamber were instrumental in the success of an initiative to enact a one-cent infrastructure sales surtax in Collier County for seven years. Approved by voters in 2018, the local option sales surtax is estimated to raise $490 million before it ends in the next year or two. The effort has already funded a variety of local infrastructure improvements such as roads, parks and building projects — “particularly the mental health services expansion, workforce training expansion, the affordable workforce housing land trust and the veterans nursing home,” Dalby said.  

He also singles out the work he and the chamber have done in advocating for more affordable workforce rental units in Collier County.  

Chamber Board Chair-elect Blake Gable, CEO of Barron Collier Companies, also said Dalby has done a good job in Naples navigating through some tough times. “In his tenure, he’s lived through a couple of hurricanes and a pandemic and certainly nothing that’s been easy. He’s done a very nice job and we’re sad to see him go,” Gable said. 

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