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Chamber's executive director resigns from post
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MONROE - Monroe Chamber of Commerce's executive director, Pam Christopher, resigned Monday.

Christopher and her husband, Larry, are moving back home to Upstate South Carolina, where she began her career in economic development and with chambers of commerce in 1990 in Spartanburg County.

"It's a family decision," Christopher said. Her parents still reside in the region.

Christopher has accepted the position of president and CEO of Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce, which is a county-wide initiative. Anderson County, S.C., has a population of about 190,000 people.

Leaving Monroe, and especially her chamber board members, is going to be difficult, Christopher said Tuesday.

"I love this community. They're like family," she said. "I hope I've made some little bit of difference in the community."

Christopher assumed the executive director position for Monroe Chamber of Commerce and Industry in October 2008. The city entered into a professional services contract with the chamber in September 2008, for Christopher to guide its economic development.

According to Nikki Matley, MCCI Treasurer, Monroe Chamber of Commerce was "in the red and deciding whether to keep the doors open," when Christopher came on board.

The hiring committee members in 2008, Jane Monahan, Steve Jacobson, Bryan Rach and Tom Purdy, "knew where the chamber stood and were dedicated to putting it on the right path," Christopher said.

MCCI repurposed itself from hosting community events to focusing on business and becoming an economic arm to the city.

"In six months, the chamber had turned itself around," Christopher said, "by gauging what businesses needed, such as advocacy and promotion" and defining its stance on issues.

Today the MCCI continues to follow its PACE plan of promotion, advocacy, connections and education. It provides seminars for business owners, acts as a lobbyist on state proposed bills that affect business and holds Business After 5 events that connect business owners with their neighbors each month. And it's coaxing new business to the area.

Under Christopher's direction, Monroe Chamber of Commerce has striven to "make everyone successful," said Jason Kundert, a past president of the organization.

"It's a lot easier place to own a business," he added.

The city had 100 acres of undeveloped land in its two industrial parks, 70 acres in the north park and 30 in Honey Creek, when it partnered with the chamber for economic development. Today the city has only 10 acres left in each park and is looking for more land to annex.

Monroe Mayor Bill Ross said, not only has Christopher expanded development for the city, but she has also retained businesses.

"Since Pam came, with her 20 years of economic development experience, her strong suit, and her ability to bring her knowledge and experience to the chamber, economic development for the city has exploded," Ross said. "We are having ribbon cuttings constantly."

Ross called Christopher a "go-getter." He said the city and chamber's "timing was right" for hiring her to fill up the struggling industrial parks.

"And Pam was comfortable going to Madison and talking with state legislators to get help when the city needed it," he added. "Under her, the chamber has given Monroe an excellent reputation in Madison. We're not just the place of Cheese Days anymore."

The city's contract with the chamber has been a wise investment with a huge return, he added.

Christopher said until her departure she will help in finding a new chamber director, one who is also qualified in economic development. The chamber has the opening posted with the Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Executives Association and Wisconsin Economic Development Association. It is looking for candidates with the right certification and background.

"They will have some big shoes to fill," Ross said. "Pam set the standard pretty high."

Christopher's last day with Monroe Chamber of Commerce and Industry is scheduled for Oct. 31. A farewell gathering is planned for later this month, with details to be announced.