During the holidays local leaders and business owners said goodbye to Sheri Heiney, President of the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce. She spent 16 years with the chamber, growing it from 550 to 1,000 members. It is one of the largest chambers in Southeast Michigan, wining numerous awards, including Michigan’s Chamber of the Year. Heiney and her husband John are moving to Arizona to be closer to family. Sheri has taken a job with the Prescott Chamber of Commerce.
In 2001, our local chamber was called the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, which serves Rochester, Rochester Hills, and Oakland Township. Heiney felt reworking the name would help describe the area it covers. “I set out to learn more about the needs of our business community so we could better serve them. Once we learned that the perception of the chamber was that it only served Rochester, we knew it needed a re-branding,” said Heiney. “I brought together a committee of marketers, writers and business owners to redevelop the chamber’s brand and really begin to start spreading its message. The mission of the chamber was re-written and a full re-branding campaign was in the works.
“As I began to navigate the business community here, I realized what a progressive and dedicated community we live in,” said Heiney. “Yet, our chamber membership was low and attendance to events even lower. I was privileged to work for a Board of Directors who had the faith in me to start implementing new programs that would truly develop our businesses and leaders.” Networking events, round-tables, award ceremonies, community committees, educational series and more built and grew the chamber and helped to bring the community more in touch with one another.
Heiney considers the chamber the “receptionist of the community.” One of the projects she is most proud of is the Rochester Regional Chamber Fund. This nonprofit entity enables the chamber to collect funding to grow its mission. “The Rochester Regional Chamber Charity Fund was created out of our mission statement and seeing many needs that the chamber has wanted to meet,” said Heiney. “Through the fund, we are now able to receive corporate funding, grants and other donations to sustain and develop new initiatives. I am honored to leave this as my final project, and the culmination of my vision for this community during my time here.”
“My goal is to wake up every day and do the best I can to connect residents, visitors, businesses and nonprofits. Each day, I want our members to ask the same questions I do. How do we help? How do we connect? How do we serve?” said Heiney. When you work in that mode, it is a natural next step to want to empower them to achieve their fullest potential. When you bring empowered people together, you create change and develop a successful community. And that is the Rochester area.”
It was obvious at the going away party that Heiney will be missed. Lots of hugs and “best wishes” could be found, as well cards and presents to offer a sincere sendoff with gratitude for what she has done for the chamber.
“I had the extreme pleasure of working with Sheri Heiney in a wide variety of ways. I started off as one of her volunteers in 2009 and advanced to a board member,” said Maggie Bobitz, Interim President, “In 2016 I became the Chair of the Board of Directors. My favorite role with Sheri was when I became her office manager. Sheri has a way of leading so that you surpass all the goals that you set for yourself. She always saw the best in people and was always there to help you reach your greatest potential. The best way that I can express Sheri’s style of leadership is that she inspires others to lead. She will be missed at the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce but she will always be a part of my day from all the knowledge that she has bestowed on me. The last 9 years that I have been able to learn from her are invaluable.”
“As I leave, the chamber’s success doesn’t leave with me,” said Heiney.” This chamber is its members, its board and the community. It will continue to grow because of now being empowered. It is that simple. Now, go create commerce.”