Englehart Appointed As Chamber President

    GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors has appointed long-time businesswoman and civic leader Jeanne Englehart as new chamber president. 

    Englehart will take over the position Jan. 5.

    According to the board, Englehart was chosen for the job out of a national field of 130 candidates because of her experience as a small business owner, her history of community service in Grand Rapids and her knowledge of local public policy issues.

    Englehart’s honors include the 1989 Greater Grand Rapids Entrepreneur Of The Year Award and a 1993 INC. Magazine’s 500 Award; she was also among the 2003 Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan.

    Englehart currently serves as community services director for U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers.

    “Jeanne Englehart is a hands-on, well-rounded leader. She has the talent, experience, communication skills and energy to lead the chamber,” said Bob Roth, incoming chair of the chamber board.

    “Her ability to relate to the challenges our members face every day and ability to see the opportunities ahead for Grand Rapids made her the candidate our search committee was excited to bring on board.”

    From 1983 to 1985, Englehart served Grand Rapids Community College as a business and industry training coordinator. She founded Englehart Training Centers in 1985, which evolved into a franchised company called Productivity Point International in 1993. She sold the business in 1998 and went to work for Ehlers.

    “I’m a small business person,” she said. “I think once you’re an entrepreneur, you’re always an entrepreneur. I’m anxious to have the opportunity to work with all the chamber members.”

    Englehart said she was attracted to the position of chamber president because of the challenges it presented. She saw it as a chance to “roll up her sleeves” and get back into the business of small business.

    Given that 80 percent of the chamber’s membership is small business, she’ll have her work cut out for her.

    “It appealed to me because it had components of what I’d done in my career — both owning, running and selling a small business and living through all of that and what I’m doing now, which is more of the public policy side.

    “I can see both sides of the picture. It looked like there were a lot of opportunities for me to make some changes and to really get in there and look at some of the value propositions for business.”

    What experience has best prepared her to lead the chamber?    

    Having owned a business that she started with $5,000 borrowed against her credit card, she said.

    Englehart recalled using a lot of chamber services to help grow her business over the years. She wasn’t in a position financially to do a lot of slick marketing.

    “One of the most advantageous ways I marketed myself and my business was to join the chamber.

    “I got on committees and networked and got to know people. The more they got to know me, I think the more they respected and trusted me, and they became customers.”

    Englehart said she’s met with each of the chamber vice presidents and program managers, but said it was too soon to talk about strategy and priorities just yet.

    “I think there will be information gathering for a while, and then I’ll have the opportunity to set some goals and the strategic direction for the chamber.”    

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