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Hicks leaves a lasting legacy at the chamber

For more than 20 years, Brad Hicks has led The Chamber of Medford & Jackson County to prominence on the local scene, representing the interests of local business owners and promoting projects that make the community a better place to live.

Hicks joined the chamber in 1993, and became president and chief executive officer in 1999. Since then he has made sure the organization has been a steady force for community improvement.

Not only does the chamber look out for the interests of its members, it develops those with potential to step into leadership roles on the City Council and other civic bodies through its annual Leadership Program.

Hicks leaves a record of accomplishment that few chamber executives can match. Since he took the top job in 1999, the chamber’s membership grew from 1,000 to a peak of 1,700 — one of the largest on the West Coast, on a par with those in Seattle and Los Angeles.

That kind of critical mass gives an organization some clout in a community this size, and the chamber has wielded that to back some major projects.

The Higher Education Center downtown that joined Southern Oregon University and Rogue Community College became a reality in part through the chamber’s efforts. U.S. Cellular Community Park is also on the list of projects the chamber supported, along with regional transportation infrastructure investments including the South Interchange Project.

The chamber has a reputation of being a conservative political force, and it is that, but it definitely understands the importance of government investment in communities, and the local chamber has focused energy on making sure the Rogue Valley gets its share of public spending.

Hicks’ role in all of this has not gone unnoticed. He has been named Chamber Executive of the Year for the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce and the Western Association of Chamber Executives, and served on the United States Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100 representing top chambers in the nation.

In Las Vegas in 2018, he was elected chairman of the Western Association, the first Oregonian to lead the 94-year-old organization, which covers 19 Western states and three Canadian provinces.

In an interview with the Mail Tribune after achieving that honor, Hicks reflected on the quiet but effective way that chambers of commerce operate.

“Chambers are the mortar between the bricks, and the mortar never gets the credit,” he said. “Five or 10 years after a freeway interchange, higher education center or sports park get built, people forget. It can be frustrating when someone asks what a chamber does when their daughter works at the HEC, son plays soccer at the sports park and their company uses the interchange for its business every day.”

We haven’t forgotten. The community should thank Brad Hicks for his decades of work, and wish his successor, Eli Matthews, good luck as he steps into some large shoes.