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New chamber president has 'fresh set of eyes'

Buchan Brent.jpg
Brent Buchan
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Following a six-month search, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce has hired an Arizona entrepreneur to step in as the organization's president.

Rob Miller, the former CEO and president of the Arizona Trade Exchange in Mesa, Ariz., accepted the job on Monday. He will start his new role within 30 days. Interim President Jerry Williams will remain on the job until Miller is in place.

"We enthusiastically chose to hire Rob," said Chamber board chair Brent Buchan. "Rob has experience working with both large and small operations. And like most of our members, he's an entrepreneur."

Buchan, the owner of Rochester's Energy Products, explained that the 30-day timeline is to allow Miller and his family time to move. Miller is working on plans to move with his wife, Laura, and 12-year-old daughter, Hailee. Laura Miller is a professional photographer, who focuses on newborn infant photos. He also has a 27-year-old daughter, Erika, who is studying to be a nurse, and a 20-year-old son, Kyle.

Miller, a native of Sheboygen, Wis., doesn't have any direct experience with a public/private trade group like a chamber of commerce, though his background gives him the needed skills for the role, Buchan said.

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He previously led the Arizona Trade Exchange, a business-to-business barter organization with 700 members for 15 years. He credited the board's willingness to closely look at the membership-driven Arizona Trade Exchange to see the similarities between it and the chamber.

"It is something not everyone is familiar with. When I looked at the job posting five months ago, I went through it and said, 'I do that … and that … and that. There were more matches than not," said Miller. "I've spent the last 15 years of my life working with small business."

Melissa Brinkman, a member of the chamber's executive committee and CEO of Rochester's Custom Alarm, said Miller's background gives him the needed skills.

"In the different positions he's been in, he's had to do a lot of collaborating. He's had a seat at the table to work with different groups," she said.

Before the Trade Exchange, Miller had experience in the hospitality industry as the owner of Rockwell Sports Grill in Mesa and as head of food and beverage at San Francisco's Candlestick Park.

"I do speak that language.That's an area I feel very comfortable in," said Miller.

Miller's hiring is the culmination of a long search that attracted many national and local applicants. It started a month after longtime Chamber President John Wade resigned in January to join Clements Chevrolet Cadillac Subaru as a partner and general manager.

When asked what advice he would have for the new president, Wade said, "Listen, learn and lead."

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Buchan said he didn't know what to expect, when he and the committee began the search months ago.

"We decided that finding the right fit to replace John was something worth doing well," he said of the lengthy process.

Part of that process involved polling the chamber's members to find out what they would like to see in the new president. The results found that having a local background was not important to them.

"They responded 'Bottom line, we want the best possible candidate, local or not,'" he said. "The candidates that we had locally were very good candidates. There was a lot of good debate and discussion."

Brinkman said Miller's lack of experience in the Rochester area also means he doesn't have any preconceptions about it.

"He's looking at everything with a fresh set of eyes," she said.

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