Englehart Leans On Experience

December 31, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Entrepreneur Jeanne Enlglehart is no stranger to the world of business, and beginning today she will make use of past experience as the new president of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

After a three-month search through 130 candidates, Englehart came out on top. She said she has several ideas that she hopes to implement as she leads the region’s largest business advocate into the new year.

“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.”

As former founder and president of Englehart Training Centers (ETC), Englehart saw firsthand how the chamber could help businesses with various needs, and she plans to work to bring those programs to members’ attention.

“I want to look at how we can be that business organization that everyone can be a part of and I think that means really looking at and analyzing the programming that we have to meet the members’ needs,” said Englehart. “And what are these products and services we have to offer and are we really meeting those needs?”

She sees her first step as reviewing what is in place now and then looking at what the membership has to say and where there may be an opportunity to improve on services.

While building the ETC business, Englehart said she didn’t have a lot of money for things like marketing plans and relied on several chamber services such as networking and getting involved on committees to market her business.

“I hope I can bring some of that to the chamber and show people that this really is an opportunity to showcase your business and market your product to a wide and diverse group of people that may not know your business or know they need your services,” said Englehart.

She also can point to her own business experience as an example of success. Englehart’s honors include the 1989 Greater Grand Rapids Entrepreneur of the Year Award and a 1993 INC. magazine 500 Award. She also was among the 2003 Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan honorees.

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.

“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.”

Most recently, Englehart worked with U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, as community services director, but said it is a little premature to determine what her role will be as far as advocacy and public policy.

In her position with Ehlers her duties included community and constituent relations, organizing major events and follow-up on outreach activities to various local groups and agencies.

Englehart added that she will bring her work on the federal government level to bear on the local and state level to work with the chamber’s programs.

In looking at the GRACC from the outside, Englehart said she sees many positive aspects. But as with any organization, there is always room for improvement.

“I think again looking at what the members are asking for and looking at what we are offering, and coming in as the new person, I assume people will be able to share with me their comments and I will be able to bring those back,” she said. “That way we can take what is already working so well and build on that to improve even more.”

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