During 17 years as president and CEO of the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce, Jane Redicker witnessed the evolution of Silver Spring into the community that it is today while overseeing such chamber projects as “Discover the Taste of Silver Spring” and the local business exposition “SchmoozaPalooza.”
Bethesda Beat spoke with Redicker, a Silver Spring resident, about her tenure with the chamber after she announced last month her plan to retire on Jan. 31. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What do you consider the biggest highlights and accomplishments of your tenure?
Well, if I could start out a little bit wider than that, this just has been absolutely the most rewarding job of my entire career. It’s really been an honor to serve our members in the greater Silver Spring business community. And I guess that’s kind of the biggest overall highlight.
My focus and the focus for the whole chamber, has really been on supporting our members and just working to make our business community and Silver Spring more prosperous, whether that’s through providing them with opportunities to make connections and build relationships with other businesses, customers and clients, or sometimes helping individual members navigate the county regulatory process, which can be daunting, especially for small businesses, and advocating for policies that recognize and appreciate the needs and concerns of our businesses.
But it’s really the people that I’ve had the privilege to come to know. They’ve made it special. Many of them are not just members and colleagues, but friends. And speaking of colleagues, I have to give a shout out to my fellow chamber execs in the county and in the state. They’ve been my mentors, my advisors, my co-conspirators and my friends.
Other highlights on the fun side … with my team, we created this thing called “Discover the Taste of Silver Spring.” It’s just a big event where our restaurants come in and provide samples, and our members are very generous. It’s just a wonderful night of networking and promoting our restaurants.
And then the other one that we created was “SchmoozaPallooza,” and it’s a business expo and it was really created to give our small businesses an affordable way to go to a tradeshow and promote themselves to show what they do, what they provide, and also [showcase] our nonprofit members as well.
The other thing we came to recognize is that public safety is really paramount to the success of the community. And we felt it was really important for our business owners, our property owners, our managers and safety and security personnel to have a relationship with the local law enforcement. And so one of the other things we did several years ago was establish what we call a security team. It’s basically our members, property owners, business owners and those who have security personnel and we meet on a regular basis.
The other thing that I would say I’m proud of is that during COVID, we really became the community Chamber of Commerce in a lot of ways. We not only helped our members, but anybody who called, anybody who reached out, business owners, whether they were a member or not, we tried to help them.
How has Silver Spring evolved over the past 17 years of your tenure?
It has changed in so many ways. I arrived shortly after Silver Spring had sprung as a result of a focus campaign that was done back in the early 2000s or I guess the late ’90s-2000s to bring back the central business district. And in many ways, I think we’re continuing to spring a little bit.
Since I’ve been here, we’ve added a lot of amenities. [The Fillmore Silver Spring] — that was really exciting. We had to break the ground and help cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the Fillmore and that was awesome.
When I came … the Civic Building and Veterans Plaza, there was nothing there. There was gravel, and now this has come about, and now it comes alive on weekends with these amazing festivals and celebrations, and it just celebrates the wonderful diversity of Silver Spring in a way that I think is unique because of the different kinds of communities and the different kinds of festivals that come there.
We have a new library with an interesting place underneath it for the [under-construction light-rail] Purple Line to come through. When I when I first arrived, the Purple Line was an idea, it was kind of a campaign promise for some of our elected officials’ hopefuls … it’s taken a long time but it’s wonderful to finally see it being built. And at least we can see the end of the line now, I guess if you will. So that’s kind of hopeful.
The Silver Spring transit center is new. [We have] three breweries and a winery now that the laws changed in the state and we helped advocate for that so that we could have local breweries and they could sell their beer [locally] and just create a whole new kind of business that could be in Silver Spring. Likewise with the wineries.
We’re getting a new aquatic center, so those are kind of the things that have changed.
Unfortunately, we still struggle with the county and Silver Spring’s somewhat precarious reputation of not always being so welcoming to business. And that’s why we need to continue to advocate strongly. That’s why we do what we do at the chamber.
We need our elected officials to make sure they understand the effect that some of their policy decisions will have on business and whether or not there needs to be a balance. And I think sometimes that the balance doesn’t always lean toward helping businesses thrive and move forward.
And so that’s where the chamber comes in again, because … I really believe that a strong business community is critical to the health of the overall community.
[Silver Spring’s] grown, it’s changed, and it’s become much more diverse as well since I’ve been here. It’s become exciting. There’s a lot to do in Silver Spring.
How would you compare Silver Spring to Bethesda or Rockville?
Oh, we don’t like to compare. We just like to take us and get better. But the one thing I do think is that Silver Spring has the potential to be a major business hub for the county. And one of the changes that I did see since I came on board that has been frustrating was when I joined the chamber back in 2005, there were lots of multi-use development projects on the books.
Every single development project in the pipeline had a combination of commercial, office, and you know, floor retail and residential. There were hotels in the mix as well. So it was a real mix of bringing in jobs and residents and amenities and everything else.
And sadly, while we are thrilled United Therapeutics has extended its footprint and is creating jobs, and we love United Therapeutics as one of our major employers and one of our major businesses and community supporters in Silver Spring, none of those other commercial projects got built and we became much more of a residential community and well, it’s wonderful to have residential people who live here when we need that.
We also need jobs here if we’re truly going to be a live, work and play community, which was what was supposed to evolve out of Silver Spring. We’ve lost a lot of the work part. And we need to figure out a way to get that back.
Over the years, we felt that our elected officials have kind of forgotten Silver Spring or started talking about other areas in the county where they were going to create business hubs. And I think that it’ll be important in the future for the county to take another serious look at Silver Spring. Not just as an arts [and] entertainment venue. We have wonderful arts and entertainment venues.
But we need more jobs. We need more businesses. We need more companies to come back in here … and we need the county support to make that happen.
In the future, that’s going to be important because we need to bring back the office market in order for a daytime economy to thrive.
So maybe the new [County Council to be elected Tuesday] will focus a little bit more on that because if Silver Spring can contribute to the business economy, then that means that contributes to the overall economy as a county and that’s got to be good.
And we have so much to offer: we’re a very diverse population, which is wonderful, and [we have] an educated workforce and we’re a great place to live. We have an array of housing options from single-family and established neighborhoods to our downtown area, which is apartments, and apartments at rates that young people can afford to come in and live, and then some that are much more expensive. So we’ve got an array of places to live for everybody.
We’re centrally located between all three major airports. We’ve got Montgomery College, I mean, what more could there be to offer than what Silver Spring has to offer?
You served in the 1990s as the first executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing and you also had a career in public relations and communications. Was there anything from those experiences that influenced how you ran the Silver Spring chamber?
If you’re in the chamber world for very long, they will tell you that if you’ve seen one chamber, you’ve seen them all, while understanding what a chamber of commerce really is and understanding that it’s really a membership-driven organization that exists only for its members wherever they may be.
Then you also recognize that the goals and needs and dreams and desires and requirements of those members is going to be different depending upon where they are. So I guess I brought that perspective with me.
Silver Spring is very different from Beijing, China. And working with local businesses, primarily small businesses, is very different from working and having memberships that were primarily multinational companies in a foreign country.
But there are lessons in working with boards of directors and understanding that it really is the members’ organization. It’s not yours, you work at the pleasure of the members and at the pleasure of the elected leadership and [get] fulfillment out of that. And I think that that’s one of the things that [I learned] from both realms.
My public relations career was more on the policy side. So I think that kind of prepared me for a lot of the advocacy. I mean, just understanding how government works because my past career was mostly on the policy side as opposed to the marketing side. So my experience in doing that, even doing that in China, and advocating to the U.S. government for our businesses in China helped me understand how government works and how advocacy needs to happen and how relationships need to be built.
What are your plans for the remainder of your term and for retirement?
During the remainder of my term, well, we’re going to get all the plans made. So there’s going to be an amazing “SchmoozaPalooza” for our members. That’s one thing that’s going to happen.
I’m not sure when it would be, [but] it would be really cool if the [South County Regional Recreation and Aquatic Center] could be done before, but I’m not sure that that’ll happen.
I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing for our members, keep supporting them in every way I can. The phone rings again the other day from a member saying, “You know, can you help me do this? This is what happened. Do you know what’s going on? Who do I need to talk to in county government?” So we’ll just continue to do what we do.
After retirement, I’m planning to do some traveling. I also have some personal volunteer work that I want to spend more time doing than I’ve had the opportunity to do here. I do hope to get more involved.
So I’ll still be here. I plan to live and play and dine and maybe speak out from time to time — but not work — in Silver Spring.