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New chamber president, Rebecca Martin, ready to make some noise

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Jasmine Goldband
Rebecca Martin (left) is the new president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Inc., and will replace former director Susan Balla, who is retiring. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review

Rebecca Martin has a message she'll deliver with relish.

“I'm going to let the world know we're here, louder,” said Martin, the new CEO and president of The Chamber of Commerce Inc. “(People) know we're here, but they're going to know what we're about.”

Martin, 52, lives in Texas but will relocate to the McCandless area to assume her chamber job, where she said she wants to revitalize its brand name through social media and other marketing efforts. She will replace retiring executive director Susan Balla.

There's a bit of an overlap between the two. Martin began her job on Feb. 1 and Balla's last day is Friday.

Balla served as executive director since October 2009 when the Cranberry Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Allegheny County Chamber of Commerce merged to form the chamber, which uppercases its name in formal use.

It has an operating budget of about $700,000, funded with membership dues, advertising, sponsorships and event programming, It supports businesses in southern Butler County, eastern Beaver County and northern Allegheny County. In all, the chamber represents 1,100 business members in 16 municipalities.

“There was no longer farmland between the business commerce areas. It made sense for us to merge so we weren't duplicating services and programs and competing against membership,” said Balla, 65, of Pine.

Balla said she plans to spend some time in Florida with her family.

Martin was last a senior vice president at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and, previously, worked for chambers and economic development agencies in other areas, including Erie and Michigan. She was elected to Erie's school board in 2003 and served as president for two years.

Gov. Ed Rendell appointed her in 2005 to the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, and she served on the Northwest Pennsylvania Travel and Tourism Task Force under Gov. Tom Ridge.

Martin said she likes that the chamber supports community efforts, including scholarships and veteran outreach.

“I wanted to choose a chamber that embraces a community in equal parts while growing its own business base,” Martin said.

She sees expansion possibilities for the chamber, which she said is “always a target goal.”

“I believe this area to be so rich with opportunity that there will be growth upon growth,” Martin said.

She said she'll have a better road map for goals she wants to accomplish during the first year by meeting with the chamber board in March.

“I never want to grow so stale in a position that it allows the organization to be motionless,” Martin said. “Business grows, and the chamber needs to keep pace.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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