LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Heather Kasten, vice president of the membership experience for the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, has been named executive director of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance.
Kasten was selected from a large pool of applicants in an interviewing process that took roughly 10 weeks to finalize.
She will assume her post May 5 based in new headquarters in the MGA Insurance Group office building near University Parkway in Lakewood Ranch, home to the founder of the organization, MGA President and CEO Lou Marinaccio.
"Heather's wealth of knowledge and passion for local businesses will help the alliance move forward in its quest to ensure unification, enrichment and advancement of its members in the greater community," said Annette Gueli, chairwoman of the board of directors.
Kasten will work with the board to develop growth strategies and systems, cultivate a dynamic team and build upon enhancing its value to members and sponsors, Gueli said in announcing the appointment Thursday.
She succeeds Robin Parsons, who held the title of business development director before resigning in December.
Kasten, who was part of the Sarasota Chamber for more than three years, is no stranger to Manatee County, having helped foster regionalism and event partnerships with the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. She has close ties to Lakewood Ranch where she has lived with her husband and three children since moving to the area in 2010 from Springfield, Miss.
Eager to draw on her membership experience and personal knowledge of Lakewood Ranch, Kasten said she wants to foster new alliances and promote business in the community.
"It's a great place to have a business, run a business and raise a family. My life is set up out there and I love it," Kasten said.
She said as soon as word leaked out about her new job, her phone, e-mail and text messages blew up in a matter of minutes.
"It's very humbling to have so many people excited for me," she said.
Kasten brings a wealth of experience to the executive director's position in membership development, team sales, marketing and event planning from prior roles as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Eli Lilly and Co. and as a regional manager for Six Flags theme parks.
Kasten's first order of business will be reviewing organizational activities, then maximizing member value and return on investment, she said.
"It doesn't need an engine overhaul, that's for sure. Just some tweaking to take it to the next level." Kasten said.
The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance is a nonprofit organization with 1,300 members in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Because of the tremendous growth the organization has experienced in the last several years, the alliance needed additional space to grow and better serve its members.
The group was formerly housed in the Schroeder-Manatee Ranch headquarters on Covenant Way in Lakewood Ranch. MGA Insurance is now leasing a first-floor office at 9423 Town Center Parkway to the alliance.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter@MoschellaHerald.