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Rochelle, Illinois recognized historically for progressive innovation in a variety of areas—railroads, utilities, and economic development—now offers new growth opportunities for both businesses and individuals. Thanks to the efforts of the organization formally known as the Rochelle Chamber of Commerce, community members, business professionals, and citizens can take advantage of value added benefits and programs offered by the new chamber.
The organization, renamed as the Rochelle Area Chamber of Commerce and Business Development reflects the recent merge with the retail arm of GREDCO and the City, the Rochelle Regional Retail Alliance on May 1st, 2009.
“Representatives of the chamber and the alliance met for about nine months. Since we were doing a lot of the same things and because of their need for some resources and collaboration, our boards made the decision to merge” says Peggy Friday, Executive Director/CEO of the new chamber.
“Upon that merger, the boards were dissolved. For the chamber, a brand new nine member board was created. Those are professional men and women who have a passion for chamber and economic development. They are very creative and energetic, and really have worked very hard to establish this new organization,” explains Friday.
Stephanie Whitmer, Executive Assistant of the new chamber, is enthusiastic about the emerging programs that have started to flourish as a result of the merger. “It has been an amazing opportunity to be a part of the merger. I had the opportunity to be involved with the creation and continuation of Chamber and Business Development events and programs. Through partnerships with local industries, I am excited to announce that we are developing environmentally-friendly programs and initiatives that will preserve our neighborhoods and foster greater eco-awareness. The most exciting part of my job, which I love, is having the opportunity to create new relationships and meet someone new every day,” she says. Friday affirms the value of the organization’s ability to bring corporations, businesses and citizens together. “That’s our goal here the networking. We act as facilitators. That’s what we hope our role is going to be, just putting the right people and the right businesses together. Stephanie has amazing talents in creativity and her people skills.” Since the consolidation, Friday and Whitmer have taken the helm of the organization. They both bring a plethora of experience and expertise to the table with their background in government. “We are pleased to be able to continue our work in commercial and retail development in the areas of recruitment, retention, and business services. These critical services, combined with the best of what Chambers of Commerce can offer, we hope will be a great benefit to local businesses,” says Friday. Friday, who previously served as the Retail Development Coordinator for Rochelle, is currently on loan to the chamber for a two year contract period. “With that background in retail development, we brought all of the relationships we have had over the past four years. We bring that connection between city services and the chamber. Now the chamber members and the business community have access to the City, Community Development, and Building Services. We can act as liaisons for that too,” Friday says about her experience.
During Friday’s service to the alliance she focused on creating a strong constituent service program. “If a business had a problem with a government agency or a private cooperation, we could sometimes intervene. Prior to Rochelle, I spent a term with Senator Peter Fitzgerald in the US Senate. We did constituent service work and so a lot of that transferred over to meet the needs of the business community here. That the kind of service that the chamber, we hoped could be doing,” says Friday.
Since the consolidation of the chamber and the alliance, Rochelle citizens have marveled at the success of the chamber and the value-added benefits to membership. “We are finding that during the merger process, there was talk in the community about whether or not this would work, whether you could merge the two successfully. In the three months we have been open, we have been very encouraged by the spirit of volunteerism that we’re getting, the number of businesses that are joining outside of Rochelle,” says Friday. “
People will just walk in the door and say, ‘We have watched the growth that has happened here. We have heard about your new chamber, and we want to be a part of it,’” Friday adds.
Contrary to popular belief, the chamber continues to remain a non-for-profit agency—one that has begun to serve the needs of the entire business community. “We are in the process of a membership campaign, because we now serve the entire business community, not just our members. I say that very carefully because we do have advantages for being a member, and member valued services,” says Friday.