The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce has tapped retiring Mohawk Industries executive Bill Kilbride as president-elect to succeed Ron Harr as president and CEO on a schedule to be announced later.
According to Howard Levine, chairman of the chamber board, Mr. Harr will continue as CEO for several more months. “We were disappointed that health concerns have made it necessary for Ron to retire early,” Mr. Levine said. “He has set a high standard of organizational performance, and I believe Bill is the best person to continue and build on the chamber’s outstanding track record.”
Mr. Kilbride is chief sustainability officer of Mohawk Industries and president of its Home Division. He joined Mohawk in 1993 when it acquired American Rug Craftsmen, of which he was president at that time. Prior to coming to Chattanooga and transitioning into the carpet industry, Mr. Kilbride worked in financial services in New York for 20 years where he held positions in banking operations with several national banks, roles at the New York Stock Exchange, and served as first vice president of planning for Dean Witter Financial Services.
Mr. Levine pointed out that Mr. Kilbride’s business experience reflects the opportunities and challenges that face Chattanooga’s regional economy as a whole. “Bill helped build Mohawk Industries into a Fortune 500 company that recently surpassed $7 billion in revenue by selling American-made products during an era in which off-shoring became the norm,” Mr. Levine said. “His experiences in finance, in building a small company into an international powerhouse, and in navigating a global economy with local products, make him the ideal person to lead the Chattanooga Chamber into the future.”
“I am honored by this opportunity,” Mr. Kilbride said. “The Chattanooga Chamber plays a critical role in supporting job creation in our regional economy and steering our community toward prosperity. Leading the chamber will give me the chance to combine my passion for the Chattanooga area with my passion for business in a way that allows me to give back to the community that has been such a great home for my family.”
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger applauded Mr. Kilbride’s experience in advanced manufacturing. “Bill has on-the-job experience with the workforce issues we’re addressing as Hamilton County strives to become a national model for educational excellence,” Mayor Coppinger said. “He can interact with existing industry executives and recruitment prospects as a peer, who understands their concerns and needs.”
According to Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, Mr. Kilbride’s track-record combines job creation with environmental stewardship in keeping with Chattanooga’s longstanding values and history of transformation. “During Bill’s tenure with Mohawk Industries, he helped the company grow its regional job totals substantially while also leading efforts to convert 16 of Mohawk’s plants into zero-landfill facilities,” Mayor Berke said. “That’s a remarkable achievement, and it shows that Bill understands how better business practices include waste reduction so that we preserve our environment while growing our economy.”
The Chattanooga Chamber executive committee approved the recommendation of the CEO Search Committee unanimously and authorized Mr. Levine to work with Mr. Kilbride and Mr. Harr to finalize the timeline and details of the transition. Mr. Kilbride will retire from Mohawk in July and plans to take some personal time before assuming full-time leadership at the Chamber on a schedule to be announced.
Mr. Harr confirmed his flexibility in the succession process. “Bill is an outstanding choice to be the Chamber’s next leader,” he said. “I feel better about retiring now that I know Bill’s capable hands will take the helm when I leave, and I’m glad to stay on until we work through a seamless transition process.”
Bill Kilbride was born and raised on Long Island, New York and attended Tennessee Wesleyan College where he majored in business management. After graduation he pursued a financial services career in New York where he worked for several national banks, served as director of Market Surveillance for the New York Stock Exchange and later became first vice president of Planning for Dean Witter Financial Services.
In 1992 he and his family relocated to Chattanooga to join American Rug Craftsmen as its president. Since 1993, the company has been part of Mohawk Industries and has subsequently added five more home textile companies to the rug division, of which he is president, and has become the largest manufacturer of area rug and related textile products in America. The Mohawk Home Division sells and sources floorcovering products around the world, and in North America to the largest retailers as well as small flooring dealers. In 2010, the role of chief sustainability officer for Mohawk Industries was added to his responsibilities.
In addition to his professional responsibilities, Mr. Kilbride has been a member of The Bright School board of trustees, an appointee of the governor of Tennessee to chair the Tennessee Arts Commission, past chairman of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chancellor’s advisory board, past chairman of Tennessee Wesleyan College, and a past member of the board of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority. He has also served as a trustee of the Hunter Museum and of First Centenary United Methodist Church in Chattanooga.
He and his wife Mary, and their children are long-time residents of Chattanooga.