The Van Buren Chamber of Commerce has proudly served the community for more than 60 years. Our mission is to prepare, develop, and promote the Van Buren community for economic growth.
The Chamber membership base is comprised of nearly 450 businesses, organizations, educational institutions and individuals throughout theRiver Valley. We work diligently to help our members thrive and make connections throughout the area. Members have access to exclusive networking events and marketing opportunities. The Chamber also sponsors important educational programs, which are designed to help develop a highly-skilled workforce. We provide members with opportunities for engagement through various committees and our Ambassadors program. These also facilitate networking and help members learn more about local needs and ways they can give back.
Chamber membership demonstrates to the public that your business is committed to the community. Research consistently shows that consumers look favorably upon organizations active in the Chamber and that they are more likely to be patrons of Chamber-affiliated entities. We promote our members in print, online, in the media, and through initiatives such as “Go Local,” which highlights member businesses and encourages citizens to spend their dollars here at home.
Learn more about the Chamber and how you can become a valued member of our organization by calling 479-474-2761 today!
Julie Murray, PCED | President & CEO
A graduate of Van Buren High School, Murray is an experienced business professional with an extensive background in strategic planning and community development. Before returning to Van Buren in early 2019, Murray served as Executive Director of the Heber Springs Area Chamber of Commerce. Prior to her directorship at the Heber Springs Chamber, Murray worked at the Walmart corporate office in strategy and development, as well as the global communications department.
She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas and a Master of Science in Leadership and Ethics from John Brown University. In 2018, she graduated from the Community Development Institute and passed a rigorous exam to earn the certification of Professional Community and Economic Developer (PCED).
Julie currently serves on the boards of Western Arkansas Planning and Development, and the Arkansas Economic Developers/Chamber Executives.
Janie Simmons | Office Administrator
Simmons has served at the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce since September 2001. Originally from Illinois, she spent 20 years in Colorado before relocating to Arkansas. In her role as Office Administrator, she oversees day-to-day operations, including accounting, scheduling, and membership tracking. She coordinates with committees in their various endeavors and assists in planning Chamber special events.
Her involvement with the Chamber extends to the Fort Smith Regional Alliance, where she assists the Executive Committee with member relations. Simmons is a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteer and currently serves as Secretary of the Crawford County chapter. She and her husband Jim are also members of Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith. Simmons’ institutional knowledge and connections within the community are valuable assets to the organization and in 2018, she was presented with the Chamber’s first-ever “Above and Beyond” Award in recognition of her faithful service. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her four children and her 11 grandchildren.
Phyllis Thompson | Director of Membership
A graduate of Van Buren High School, Phyllis is a long-time resident of Van Buren. Prior to joining the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce, Phyllis worked in the retail industry in administration and management roles. She also has extensive experience in customer service and purchasing, having worked several years in the Oil Industry and the Food Processing business.
Thompson is an active member of the the Robert Jack VFW Post 1322 Auxillary and has served as secretary of that organization. She and her husband, David, live in Van Buren, have two children and one grandchild.
Pat Powell | Executive Director, Leadership Crawford County
Pat Powell was hired as the Executive Director of Leadership Crawford County in February 2021. She is a long-time resident of Van Buren and a 2009 graduate of Leadership Crawford County.
Pat most recently held the position of Vice-President of Human Resources at Golden Living in Fort Smith. In this position, she was responsible for the oversight of up to 1,200 employees. Pat has served as the President of the Women’s League of Van Buren in 2006, as a board member of the Van Buren Boy’s and Girl’s Club and as a board member of the United Way. In 2008 she was recognized with the Women's League Volunteer of the Year Award.