Belleville Chamber of Commerce chief preaches collaboration
There isn’t much of a learning curve for the new executive director of the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce.
That’s because Wendy J. Pfeil, who began her new role June 1, has been with the chamber since 2008, starting only months after now-former executive director John Lengermann started. In those days, the metro-east was in the depths of the Great Recession.
That recession is over now, and Pfeil says an increase in local development is proof. She says she’s seen the good that collaboration among businesses, government leaders and regular folks can do for a community and urges everyone who has helped Belleville start to turn the corner to keep doing what they’re doing.
Efforts are ongoing to find a replacement for Pfeil’s previous position. She said it may be another month before someone is chosen.
Q: You’ve been with the chamber for eight years, previously as membership development director. What did you do in that role?
A: “I recruited new members, came up with membership programs to keep them happy, took a lot of phone calls and interacted with a lot of members on a daily basis. That was the main purpose of that job.”
Q: What was your career background? How did you get to where you are?
A: “I actually have a degree in accounting. I worked in the finance field when I got out of college and came (to the metro-east) by way of employment. The chamber was actually a client of mine when I worked for a radio station. I enjoyed working with them, and then the membership development position came open and it was as a time in my life where I was ready for a transition. The timing was right and it was a perfect fit. I continue to enjoy it.”
Q: Since you’ve already been with the chamber, has it been an easy transition into your new role?
A: “So far so good. Everyone’s being nice to me this first week so we’ll see. Obviously there are a lot of things that the executive director does that I did not do, so it’s just finding out those differences. (Former Executive Director John Lengermann) had been here eight years, too. He started in June of 2008 and I started in September. And (Office Manager) Beth Tucker came in October. So all of us had been together for eight years. We got along really, really well. Each of us had our strengths that played off of one another. It made for a good team. It all worked. It just worked.”
Q: Why did you want the job?
A: “I love the job here. I love working for the chamber and working with Belleville businesses to ensure they grow and succeed. We’ve come so far in the last eight years and I want to continue to see that growth happen. I’m excited for the challenges that are ahead of us. I’m excited to be here and to work with these businesses. I encourage people to stop by here or call us if they have any questions, especially new businesses that we’ve not been able to touch. There’s always those out there. Whatever we can do to make it better, we want to do that.”
Q: In terms of business activity, Belleville appears to have made some significant progress in the last few years. What are your thoughts?
A: “I think it all goes back to that dreaded word ‘economy.’ The economy was down and it’s just that a lot of the businesses are working together to make things happen. We’re starting to see that light; we’re starting to see that turn. There’s more interest in coming into Belleville. The businesses seem to be coming out of that lull that they were having. I’m just excited to see where they’re ready to go in the next couple years.”
Q: It seems like businesses are more collaborative now than they had been before.
A: “I think they’re finding out that you have to work together more. You can’t build silos and just hope it’s all going to stay the way it is. There is much more collaboration across not only businesses but people in general, finding the right networking tools to help you get out there. We have been great in building those networking tools in some of the events that we host like our Business After Hours or our committee meetings. We have Lunch & Learn programs, we have Coffee Cup Connections, and it’s really directed toward a vast array of businesses. We don’t target one business or another. It’s from the small businesses, from the mom and pop shop all the way up to our larger employers here in town.”
Q: A big project currently ongoing in Belleville is development across from the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. What are you most looking forward to with regard to that project and projects like it?
A: “I think it’s just the development in general, to see the spur of development that’s coming back to the area. It seems like the city went through a time where there wasn’t much going on. Small projects here and there, but it seems that development is starting to spur more interest all along the Route 15 corridor. That’s nothing but fantastic for Belleville, so I’m excited to see the growth that’s going to come out of that.”
Q: So whatever folks in business, government and the general public are doing in town, your advice to them is to keep doing what they’re doing?
A: “Definitely. I think everything is moving in the right direction. It seems everybody is working well together. The collaboration has been good so if we can keep moving in the right direction, I think that’s definitely the way we need to be headed.”
Wendy J. Pfeil
Job: Executive Director, Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce
Outlook: ‘Everything (in Belleville) is moving in the right direction.’