Gin Kinneman, center, celebrates as 2018 Chamber of Commerce board chair with outgoing chair Dak Hardwick, left, and Chamber President and CEO Joe Haggerty at the Chairman’s Reception Jan. 18 at Alexandria Renew Enterprises.
Photo by Jeanne Theismann.
The first time Virginia “Gin” Kinneman went to a Chamber of Commerce event, she was surprised to see so many attendees.
“It was a room packed full of people,” said Kinneman. “There were probably 150, 200 people, and all of them were leaders in Alexandria.” She realized that for all this time, she had been insulated from a large community of people who were much like her.
On Thursday, Jan. 18, the chamber officially welcomed Kinneman as the 2018 Chairman of the Board.
Kinneman has been a business leader as the owner of Kinneman Insurance for 20 years. Before that she had spent 12 years in banking. She had decided leave that line of work when the bank she worked at was purchased by another, and she realized that she did not want to be “vulnerable to corporate America.”
Seeing an opportunity to forge new relationships, Kinneman became an active member of this newfound community. “I joined a committee, then chaired an event,” she said. Eventually, she began serving on the board of directors.
From the beginning, Kinneman’s focus has been on bringing people together. In particular, she has been a driving force in the Alexandria Chamber Professional Women’s Network. “The Professional Women’s Network was the first committee that I got involved with in 2011,” she said. “The goal of the committee is to find a place where professional women can come together.” As chair of the network, she worked to provide networking opportunities, support and professional guidance for women.
Kinneman has stayed involved with the Women’s Professional Network even after her tenure as chair. “Gin has been extremely supportive,” said current chair Patti Turner of United Way Worldwide. “She’s a wonderful networker. She gets to know folks professionally. She provides suggestions on who to recruit, and she is able to really help people collaborate and work better together in groups.”
The Professional Women’s Network’s signature event is the Women’s Leadership Forum, a “half-day event, with educational panels and break-out sessions.” Spearheaded by the Women’s Leadership Forum, the Professional Women’s Network has been one of the chamber’s fastest growing programs. Turner pointed out that the network is looking for a new space to hold the leadership forum because they have attracted so many attendees.
As Chairman of the Board, Kinneman is bringing the importance of relationships to the forefront with an initiative called Working Together. “We want to see businesses collaborating and mentoring each other,” she said, “so that there’s growth in business in Alexandria.”
Kinneman emphasized the need to support young professionals. “We are focusing on young leadership,” she said. “We want to bring on young leaders to continue the current leaders’ legacy. This is the third year of the 40 Under 40 awards,” she said, referencing the chamber’s initiative to recognize young leaders and innovators. The chamber is also initiating a Young Leaders’ Network whose aim is to bolster the efforts of young professionals.
The chamber is currently engaged with a number of different groups. “We are working with the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership to bring more business to Alexandria. We want to partner with them and with businesses.” Working with the Economic Development Partnership, the chamber is deciding where businesses should be located and what they want, added Joe Haggerty, president and chief executive officer of the chamber.
“We want to create strong government relations,” said Kinneman, emphasizing the need to advocate for local businesses and help them grow. The chamber prepared an Annual Legislative Agenda that details the advocacy efforts that it is engaging in at City Hall. Among the greatest of these challenges are the completion of the Potomac Yard Metro Station and improving access to broadband services, according to the chamber’s Immediate Past Chair Dak Hardwick of Aerospace Industries Association.
Kinneman has not forgotten her roots as a small business-owner. Supporting small businesses is a primary objective of the chamber, which is working with the Small Business Development Center. “We want to promote their events and the training that they offer,” said Kinneman. “Alexandria is a small town with big town features. There’s strong camaraderie among businesses, and there are many small businesses. But it’s a city that’s big enough to get stuff done.”
To Kinneman, it’s all about the community. She joined the chamber to build her own agency brand, but she stayed because she “fell in love with the business-owners.”
“She’s focused on membership, so that members feel like they belong,” said Hardwick. “The chamber continues to solidify itself as a community-based business organization.” He noted that many of its members live in the city, and are active members of the community. “They’re serving the city on a board or a commission, or they’re members of nonprofits.”
Kinneman hopes that other business-owners in Alexandria are not distanced from the community like she was before she joined the chamber. “I want to see growth in membership, attendance, and satisfaction. I want to be sitting here in 2019 and say, ‘Yeah, we did something.’”