The Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce, formed in the early 1900s, has played a big part in the city’s development.
The chamber’s mission is to advocate for business and be a resource for the community.
The Lincoln organization promotes local businesses and sponsors events that draw attention to these businesses as well as the city itself. Those events include the summer Farmers’ Markets, Lincoln Showcase, the annual Christmas and 4th of July downtown parades, monthly mixers and frequent business ribbon-cuttings.
But in the last approximately 21 months, the organization has struggled to keep a CEO in place after Bob Romness retired in March 2014. Romness retired after a five-year successful stint at the chamber and more than 41 years in nonprofit organizations and as a small business retail manager and owner.
Two executive directors were hired and held the positions for short periods of time. Cindy Eveler was hired after a three-month search to replace Romness but left a few months later. Replacing Eveler was Julia Jordan, hired this past March and on the job for eight months before leaving.
Helping hold the chamber together when there was no executive staff was interim CEO Ruth Alves. At the time, Alves was the chamber board secretary, a volunteer position that by itself demanded many hours of her. Alves has belonged to the chamber for more than 20 years, organized the 4th of July parade for about 15 years and has lived here for about 36 years.
Alves did a great job in the interim position. But she only took the position temporarily to keep the chamber doors open until a strong CEO could be found because she is an advocate of the organization. She and other board members handled every detail of the chamber’s operation, from managing the two other staff members to making sure the monthly breakfast meetings ran smoothly to paying the bills.
Nothing makes an organization stagnate more than having board members be responsible for the chamber’s daily operations.
For the Lincoln chamber to become a vibrant force in the community again, the nonprofit chamber of commerce board members need a leader who can quickly strengthen the organization and move forward.
The board did just that, with their recent hiring of Tom Cosgrove as chamber CEO.
The chamber board chose Cosgrove, a former Lincoln City Councilman for 18 years and a Lincoln mayor for four years.
And if anyone can steady the chamber ship, it is Cosgrove.
Since moving from Citrus Heights to downtown Lincoln in 1987, Cosgrove loves everything Lincoln.
“Tom has a solid understanding of finances, he’s well known in the community, he has a lot of contacts,” Alves said. “He loves Lincoln. This is a really good fit for Tom to take the helm of the chamber and take the chamber to the next level.”
Speaking as a former public relations/membership manager at the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce, working for a chamber is hard. While many residents told me at my Sunnyvale job that they appreciate the principles behind a chamber, i.e. supporting and looking after local businesses, they don’t usually automatically volunteer their time or money for the nonprofit organization. It takes a lot of patience and talking to get others to join the nonprofit organization found in most cities in the United States.
With Cosgrove as the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce CEO, the organization is poised to succeed. He has patience: as a councilman, he worked for 16 years on bringing the Highway 65 Bypass to Lincoln to provide a means to move goods and also reduce congestion.
Cosgrove, from his very first days on City Council, was interested in making sure that Lincoln’s economic development is healthy.
“As communities change and grow, the economic developments change as well,” Cosgrove said. “Looking to the future and planning for the future is essential.”
Since Cosgrove moved here in 1987, he has easily talked about the advantages of living and doing business in Lincoln. He is an ambassador of Lincoln 24/7 and the chamber is lucky to have him.
Carol Feineman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 774-7972.