Isabelle Renault is the president/CEO of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce and a Ponte Vedra resident.
Can you please tell us about your background?
I relocated to the U.S. in 1999 from France to seek better job opportunities. I could have chosen a different country, but I had visited the U.S. several times as an exchange student and loved it. This country was a great fit for me, and I’m proud to be a U.S. citizen. I began my career with the Chamber the year I moved here and worked my way up the ladder.
What are your primary roles and responsibilities?
As the leader of the second largest networking organization in Northeast Florida with more than 1,100 members, the Chamber is many things but most importantly we are an advocate and voice for the business community. Broadly speaking, we make sure that our business community prospers by constantly adapting to our members’ needs. We do that not only by being active in the public policy space but also by providing networking and educational opportunities. We refer our members to customers and work with our partners to recruit new businesses, and we help current businesses expand.
As a dynamic not-for-profit, regional business association, our mission is simple but ambitious: “To deliver continuous value-added service to our members and the community, resulting in a business environment and quality of life where existing businesses have the opportunity to prosper, and new businesses find it attractive to locate in St. Johns County.”
What do you enjoy most about working for the Chamber?
Making a difference by working with people. I love this job — it is challenging and diverse. Our chamber leaders make a real impact like going door-to-door meeting our members right after Matthew and Irma. It takes teamwork, both internally with our members and staff and often across multiple organizations, to advocate for our business community. Working with talented and skilled people who earnestly want to do good things for St. Johns County businesses is a rewarding adventure.
What are the goals of the Chamber moving forward?
I recently proposed — and the board unanimously passed — a very ambitious plan. During the next three years and in some instances beyond even that, we have proposed many things that I believe will take us over our tipping point to the moment when not just our services and benefits are growing but our resources as well.
Our vision for our plan is the following: The St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce will be a fierce advocate for members’ success. We will increase our capacity to adapt. We will impact the ever-changing business reality with proactive solutions. And, we will be a known influencer of public policy.
An example from our plan that especially affects Ponte Vedra is our changing role in the area’s tourism industry. We have long been host to the Ponte Vedra Visitors Center but as a voice of the many businesses that benefit from visitors’ spending, we felt there was an opportunity for us to make a greater impact on the industry. We commissioned a study to identify combined tourism assets in the Ponte Vedra area that will be of value to our residents and visitors.
What do you enjoy most about living in Ponte Vedra?
There are so many things, but it’s the family-focused atmosphere that prevails through much of what Ponte Vedra has to offer. The schools are great here and throughout the county, which is so important to families, but I can also sign us all up for an art class at the Cultural Center, spend a day on the beach or — something you should do every year — take the entire family out to watch THE PLAYERS Championship. Nature trails and outdoor activities, great restaurants and the convenience of so many great things in nearby areas; there really is so much for families here, and I’m proud to call it home.
What do you like to do in your free time?
When I am not shuttling my five kids to their many activities, my husband Jason and I enjoy meals with friends and family and water activities. I also look forward to our annual trip to France to see family.