Rockford Chamber of Commerce hires familiar face

Melody Butters migrates from bank to part time financial job

Happy birthday, Melody Butters, who started work at her new job at the Rockford Chamber of Commerce on the anniversary of her birth, April 16. It was an interesting transition. Amy Kelley, former financial coordinator, had mentioned to Melody, who was the manager at a local bank, that she was interested in going full time. Melanie was interested in going part time. When Amy found her new, full time job Melody, with her banking expertise, was happy to take over Amy’s duties for the chamber.

“It was a good birthday gift,” she said of the job. Melody’s duties include all the financial jobs of the non-profit organization, preparing invoices, doing payroll, keeping track of dues and memberships. In addition to Executive Director Linda Southwick, the team at the Chamber includes Megan Dean, Event Coordinator.

Linda said she is thrilled to welcome Melody to the team, and it is a small team for all the Chamber does. “It’s the age old question,” she said of what a chamber of commerce is.

The Chamber works to promote success in business, and not just members, although it is supported by membership dues.

“We work with the city, the schools, the nonprofits like Lions, Rotary, the museum, the library,” Linda described. “We are here to promote the businesses and help them succeed.” The work that the three paid chamber employees do is augmented by a wealth of volunteers, whose camaraderie and closeness is a club of its own. Melody already was well known in town because, in addition to being a regular fixture at her work, was a staple at Chamber functions.

Functions of the chamber, for people, who don’t know, are seemingly endless. In addition to the high profile events we all know about, Start of Summer (thank you, Chamber), Harvest Festival, Sidewalk Sales, the Chocolate Stroll, there are a thousand and one other events. The Chamber luncheons, breakfasts, after hours, Network Circle, golf outings, ground breakings and endless ribbon cuttings.

Rockford has a population of about 6,000, and the events held here likely bring in folks from outside the city limits who also consider themselves Rockford residents due to their address and presence in the Rockford School System.

Melody has a long history in banking as she joined a bank as an intern in 2006 after her education at Cornerstone University, where she also met her husband Ben.

Now they have been married five years and have a seven-month-old daughter, Emma. She majored in Communicaitons and took a minor in Psychology, for her business bachelor degree. She always thought she would someday work at a nonprofit, but stayed with her bank job, which she loved until she rose to the very top as branch manager. This switch, however, feels right. And she knows the person who took over at her old job and he is a great choice for the job.

“Clearly, I’m being eclectic,” she said. The chamber has 317 members, including 44 new ones. With business up in the nation, the numbers here are also booming. According to a recent study, Rockford is the fastest growing community in Kent County. And that doesn’t just happen by itself.

“We are here to strengthen the community,” she described. Megan, who joined the conversation, said it is common for people to call the chamber and ask about the town, where to eat, what to do, even for a phone number or directions. “We are like a community hub here, the catch all. We point them in the right direction.” Megan stated. “Even Blues on the River isn’t ours but we have info on it.”

Over the past years other chambers have not thrived and grown the way Rockford’s chamber has. Some have disbanded, some are volunteer organizations. Given the large agenda this chamber undertakes, it is amazing such a small crew accomplishes so very much. Of course, they, too count on volunteers, from the people directing the parade this past weekend to organizing the many events. “It’s insane how many volunteers we have,” said Melody.

Another reason she is thrilled with her new job is because she is still in touch with business people, who were often also her customers at the bank. “I can continue to build on those relationships.”

Finally, with a little one at home, she has the flexibility and more time for family things. “I don’t think I will ever regret spending more time with my kids.”