As the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce's new president and CEO, Paul Rumler is excited for a homecoming with his former employer and his hometown, as well as the opportunity to help advance both.
On Monday, the chamber announced Rumler will lead the bi-state chamber and economic development organization effective April 16. Rumler, who worked for the Quad-Cities chamber from 2006-2016, has been working as the chief strategy officer at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"I’m excited about the potential for the Quad-Cities region …," Rumler said. "We have opportunities in this community right now like we’ve never seen before and together we’ll continue to create a stronger economy for the benefit of all businesses and Quad-Citizens."
In a telephone interview, Rumler said he was not looking for a job when executive search firm Waverly Partners contacted him as part of the chamber's CEO search. He was among a field of 40 candidates.
"I'm most excited about the chamber's volunteer leadership, member engagement, the community partners and, more importantly, by the staff. They have built a lot of momentum over the past six to eight months," said Rumler, who now wants to "see what we can do as a team."
Rumler fills a vacancy left in July when former CEO Tara Barney resigned, announcing she was stepping down "to pass the torch to new leadership." Last month, the Southwest Indiana Chamber in Evansville, Indiana, announced Barney as its new president and CEO.
"Paul has an established track record demonstrating forward-thinking and collaborative leadership," Pat Eikenberry, chair of the Quad-Cities Chamber board and the CEO Search Task Force, said.
"We were blessed to have excellent candidates. It made the decision more difficult. But at the end of the day, Paul was the guy," he said, adding the decision was unanimous with the board and the search committee.
Asked if Rumler's Quad-City experience was an advantage, Eikenberry said, "Being here in the past can be good and bad. But because Paul left and gained new experience in Grand Rapids, he had something to bring back to us. He came (to the interview) with 30-, 60- and 90-day plans. That really demonstrated the fact he could hit the ground running."
Rumler was involved in several Quad-City chamber initiatives during his tenure that the chamber sees as some of the region's greatest economic opportunities today, including the Manufacturing Innovation Hub, the regional 2030 plan, and passenger rail between Chicago and the Quad-Cities. His roles included talent attraction and retention, community development, public policy and economic development.
Rumler said one of his proudest accomplishments here was assembling and leading a strong chamber economic development staff and its relationship building with regional community economic development professionals and public officials. He also provided leadership in the redevelopment planning of SouthPark Mall, Moline.
In 2015, he was recognized as a “40 Under 40 Leader in Economic Development” by Development Counsellors International.
In Grand Rapids, Rumler has been responsible for the chamber's strategic planning, membership experience and organization needs, revenue development, market research, and the annual budget and work plan. The Grand Rapids Chamber serves a metropolitan area with a population of 1.3 million residents. The chamber has 2,350 members. The Quad-City metropolitan region has a population of about 471,551 and its chamber has about 2,000 members, according to its website.
"He's a great fit for the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, that's for sure," said Rick Baker, the Grand Rapids chamber's president and CEO, and a former Quad-City chamber executive. "It's a great opportunity for him and the Quad-Cities community to have somebody who's passionate about his hometown and brings that passion to the job."
According to Baker, he recruited Rumler two years ago to help lead a transformation of the Grand Rapids' chamber. "He has been reinventing us as an organization," Baker said in a telephone interview. "We needed to look at what we were doing, what we needed to stop doing, what we needed to add to be a better resource for the people here in Grand Rapids."
Rumler said that work ended with the chamber's move last week into a $1.1 million facility that provides new offices for the chamber and "a new member experience." Through the transformation, he said the chamber looked into how it was serving its members and how it could keep pace with the community's rapid growth.
Eikenberry said the CEO search was led by a task force appointed by the chamber's board. In addition to Eikenberry of IMEG, it was comprised of Brian Duffy, Per Mar Security; Cathy Edwards, Edwards Creative; Mara Downing, Deere & Co.; Joe Slavens, Northwest Bank & Trust; Ken Koupal, U.S. Bank; LaDrina Wilson, Scott Community College; Pryce Boeye, Hungry Hobo; and Randy Moore, Iowa American Water.
The chamber also hired search firm Waverly Partners, which narrowed the list initially. The task force further narrowed the list to six candidates, who were interviewed by phone, and then "two final candidates participated in day-long discussions with staff, board, investors and public sector partners," Eikenberry said.
"We received applicants from all over the country, many with extensive experience in leading chambers of commerce," Eikenberry added. "Paul was overwhelmingly supported by every constituency involved in the process and we’re thrilled that he will be the next CEO of the Quad Cities Chamber."
"Paul's heart was always in the Quad-Cities," Eikenberry said. "He brings the best of both worlds -- fresh eyes and knowledge of what we are, what we've done and where we've been."