EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Andrea Hutchins believes in the adage “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

That’s why her planned approach to her new job as El Paso Chamber chief executive officer includes deepening ties with Fort Bliss in Juarez.

“As a military spouse, we talk a lot about the importance of the relationship with Fort Bliss and the business community, but the relationship between Juarez and the El Paso community really has been symbiotic for decades, centuries even,” Hutchins told Border Report on Friday.

Hutchins is the chamber’s first female CEO in its 123-year history. She is the former economic development director of El Paso County and replaces David Jerome, who left in March.

Hutchins said her priorities will be to grow chamber membership and increase collaboration with businesses and community organizations throughout the region.

“One of the key things we want to do is collaborate, whether it’s collaborate with community partners, collaborate with other business or other philanthropic organizations that already have great and wonderful activities going on,” she said. “We really want to be seen as a leader in the community but we already want to embrace those activities that are ongoing and seeing how we can amplify them.”

El Paso during the pandemic lost up to 90 percent of its Mexican shoppers, not only to fear of contagion but also to strict restrictions on the entry of non-U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to the United States.

South El Paso shops and Downtown took a big hit in 2020 and most of 2021. But with the restrictions eased, El Paso is slowly getting back some of that cross-border retail commerce.

“It’s my understanding the number of individuals coming back over the border and shopping again is starting to return to normal. It’s not pre-pandemic, however, across the county we are seeing an increase in sales taxes and we’re seeing an increase in tax revenues overall and I think that’s a direct correlation between some of the increased border activity that we are seeing,” she said.

Asked about the controversial Downtown arena – which some in the business community feel will detonate growth in the area, while others fear could destroy a piece of the city’s history – the new chamber leader said she’s willing to listen.

“There are a lot of opportunities in the Downtown area. The arena could be one of them. I am on day five of my current position, so maybe on day 10 I’ll have a more firm take on things. But I’m really interested on spending the next 30, 60, 90 days talking to people, doing outreach, and really going through what I’m calling a listening tour,” she said.