New executive director to lead Guilderland chamber 

Danielle Wlash

Danielle Wlash

GUILDERLAND — “I think the most important thing for me right now is to get out and listen to all the members,” said Danielle Walsh. Walsh started this week as executive director of the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce.

At the chamber, Walsh hopes to strengthen the business-to-business network, bring in more educational programs, and expand the chamber’s offerings for both existing and new members, she said. 

Her first goal is to “get out and meet the members,” she said, which she will have a chance to do at an after-hours mixer on Thursday, Feb. 6, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Apex Entertainment at Crossgates. 

Walsh’s connections and expertise will make her “a great addition to the chamber,” Rhonda Stansfield-Krutz, chairwoman of the chamber board, told The Enterprise. 

Walsh, 27, grew up in the area, in Clifton Park, and brings to the chamber three years of experience with Discover Albany. 

Discover Albany is an independent, not-for-profit corporation that serves as Albany County's official tourism promotion agency, as well as an administrator of the Capital-Saratoga Region and Hudson River Valley marketing efforts, according to its website. 

Walsh started out there, after graduating from the State University of New York at New Paltz, as a sales and events coordinator, “helping to bring in large meetings, conventions, and sales events,” she said. 

She then became the first person to fill a new role in the organization, of partnership and community-relations manager. In that role, Walsh said, she tried to ensure that the entire county was well represented in Discover Albany, and not just the city and the downtown area. Her work took her to other parts of the county including Guilderland, Bethlehem, and the Hilltowns, where she met with businesses and expanded the partnership, or membership, base. 

Discover Albany is “very similar” to a chamber, Walsh said, except that, while a chamber focuses on business-to-business exposure, a tourism promotion agency concentrates on highlighting businesses for visitors.

Walsh worked often, she said, with Crossgates Mall and met several times with the chamber’s former chairwoman, Michelle Viola-Straight, who left in November 2019.

“I saw that Michelle Viola-Straight was going to be leaving, and it seemed that the Guilderland chamber was very active and exciting,” Walsh said.

Viola-Straight headed the Guilderland chamber for two-and-a-half years before taking a position as director of community partnerships at the Veterans & Community Housing Coalition in Ballston Spa. 

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