It’s a construction company office, after all, so a little messiness is expected.

But Mel Gravely expects the conference room table at TriVersity Construction Co. in Norwood, where he is president and CEO, to be wiped down daily. An employee jokes that if coffee rings aren’t cleaned off the table, Gravely has teased about taking away the coffee machine altogether.

Gravely, who will take over as chairman of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber in January, is known for his humor and he uses it to defuse tough situations. His quick wit and his ability to bring multiple groups to the table and walk away with a consensus is what those who know him say will be his greatest strength in leading this 5,000-member group.

“He has a way of easing tensions with opposing perspectives by using humor as a lubricant,” says Janet Reid, the first woman and the first African American to chair the chamber in 2004. “Working collaboratively is going to be important. Even more so than when I was there.”

Next year will be a turning point for the chamber. After seven years at the helm, President and CEO Ellen van der Horst and the chamber board agreed earlier this year to transition to new leadership. Van der Horst will leave early next year after her successor is named. Gravely, who is heading the search for the new CEO, will have to work with that person to bridge gaps between the varying factions of the chamber and the growing number of business and economic development groups who all want a seat at the regional table of power.

“We live in a world now where more voices want to be heard,” Gravely says. “The chamber has got to continue to work with people in deeper and different ways.”

Gravely’s top mission is to work with groups such as the Cincinnati Business Committee, Cincinnati Regional Business Committee, Cintrifuse and Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC), in higher and better ways. There isn’t much daylight between the ideas of these groups, he says, but sometimes issues, such as how to fund projects, get in the way of achieving mutual goals.

This may sound impossibly tricky. But Gravely, 49, is used to setting steep goals for himself.

Since he took over TriVersity in 2009, it has grown into a $55 million company. Within the next two years, he wants to grow the business by 40 percent, up to $75 or $80 million, and expand into new markets.

He admits that he has an almost unrealistic desire to push through obstacles. “We decide what’s possible and then we perform just underneath it.” He says he would rather try, and fail, than decide that a task is impossible and give up.

Adding to his busy life is his commitment to never miss his two sons’ basketball, soccer, football or lacrosse games at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. He exercises four to five days a week, serves on many nonprofit boards across the city, and tries to spend his remaining free time with his wife, Chandra.

Gravely is comfortable enough to poke fun at his quirks. He is obsessively neat, to the point where he forces crews to pick up bits of plastic wire casing from the floor of construction sites. He believes that appearance matters, so he only wears pressed blue, gray or white shirts with a suit or sport coat and is rarely seen in blue jeans.

He likes clear communication, people who can manage themselves, and honest friends.

“I’m loyal to a fault,” he says. “But my friends have to be people who can take the truth, because at some point they’re going to get it.”

He has written eight books, all but one of them on entrepreneurial thinking and minority business development. He founded the Institute for Entrepreneurial Thinking, a think tank for minority business owners. He was one of the architects of the chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator and once served as its director.

“The MBA has now become a model for others around the country,’’ says current MBA director Crystal German. “Mel Gravely’s voice is usually not the loudest. However, it is the product of such sound logic, great vision and strong leadership, it has created a demand for his opinion and engagement in addressing the region’s greatest challenges.”

Gravely’s experience in breaking down boundaries for minorities is great preparation for his role as chamber chair, where diplomacy is key, says Pete Strange, retired chairman of the board of Messer Construction and a former chair of the chamber.

“He models this type of inclusiveness,“ Strange says.

He describes Gravely as a deep thinker, who can deliver challenging ideas without alienating those with opposing views or making them feel defensive. “Mel is better than I am at that,” he says.

Gravely also knows the chamber from many different perspectives. He has been on the board, on and off, in various roles, since 2001, and was part of the search committee that recruited Van der Horst seven years ago.

“You know where you stand with Mel all the time…this eliminates a lot of unnecessary games-playing,” Van der Horst says. “His sense of humor helps us keep things in perspective.”

She has watched Gravely negotiate through a tense room many times. He always gives careful consideration before he speaks. But he is not afraid to take an opposing view from the majority. However, once a decision is made, even if it goes against him, he always throws his full support behind it, she says.

Gravely will have to balance the competing groups within the chamber. The chamber’s current membership is 2 percent corporate, 83 percent small businesses and 15 percent mid-size companies. The balance of power within the chamber has shifted away from big global corporations to include more medium-sized companies and nonprofits, such as hospitals.

He believes that small business has a big role in the chamber. While acknowledging that it would be a challenge for small business owners to rise to chamber board chair, he sees real leadership opportunities for them at the committee level.

“The big companies think it’s all being done for the small companies and the small companies think it’s all for the big companies,” he says, chuckling.

How does he plan to keep everyone satisfied?

“It’s a dance,” he says.