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Board of Directors

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

The Greater Freeport Partnership is advised by a group of community leaders, public partners, and business owners.

Mark Gridley, President & CEO FHN

Mark Gridley, Chair

Why were you driven to be on the Partnership board?

The economic growth and vitality of our community is critical to helping improve the health and wellbeing of the families throughout the area.

 What do you find of value in the Partnership membership?

The Greater Freeport Partnership brings together caring thought leaders focused on creating a greater good for all being served.

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?

Promoting the opportunity and value proposition of our business community and resources to attract greater interest and involvement in supporting our ongoing growth.

Josh Elliott, Owner at Elliott Graphix & Zealous Art Studio & Tattoo

Josh Elliott, Vice-Chair

Why were you driven to be on the Partnership board?

I believe the Partnership has the City of Freeport’s best interest with economic development, business and the overall wellbeing of its citizens and I am anxious to help in whatever way necessary.

What do you find of value in the Partnership membership?

Their help with marketing and advertising is extremely valuable to small businesses.  I also am excited about the events that bring tourism and new customers to Freeport.

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?

Creating new relationships with businesses and helping Freeport’s economy thrive.

Mark Wright, President Midwest Community Bank

Mark Wright, Secretary

Why were you driven to be on the Partnership board?  I was asked to be a member of the Partnership Board after having served in one capacity or another on the NIDA board for over two decades.  I was honored to be asked to serve as a board member of the Partnership knowing that the combined efforts of economic and downtown development along with management of the CVB would be beneficial under one organization.

What do you find of value in the Partnership membership?  I believe strongly in the combined Partnership group and the benefits that our community derives from having a focus on greater economic and downtown development as well as a combined, consistent marketing message.  The Partnership was created understanding the benefits of having City, County and private membership combined to bring to bear the strongest possible emphasis on retaining and expanding our business and tax base in our community as well as providing technical expertise to members and potential new businesses that are interested in expanding into Stephenson county.  Given the challenges of both City and County budgets it has been extremely helpful to have private membership contributions knowing that both the City and County could not provide this on their own.

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?  The Partnership does great things and will continue to do so in 2022.  I look forward to continuing that effort along with the challenges and opportunities that present themselves in the future.  We are constantly looking for ways to improve and provide value to our members and greater community at large.  I’m thankful for our Partnership staff and volunteer board members that work tirelessly to improve the economic conditions of our community.

Chris Schneiderman, Executive Vice President at State Bank

Chris Schneiderman, Treasurer

Why were you driven to be on the Partnership board?  I was the Treasurer of the Chamber of Commerce when the idea of combining the four entities came about.  I was asked to continue my role as Treasurer when the entities combined.  I personally felt the combination was a good idea, but also knew it would be a challenge to mold the four entities goals/objectives, and also the individual cultures.  I felt it my duty to consider serving if I agreed with the concept.  Three years later, we are a fiscally sound entity attempting to meet the goals and objectives of the various economic and tourism needs of the Stephenson County area.  Albeit challenging, it is also very rewarding, and I think we’ve done a good job bringing those four entities together to serve the greater good.

What do you find of value in the Partnership membership? State Bank finds immense value in being a member of Partnership.  The social aspect for our employees, including our younger employees, along with event sponsorships and event social opportunities to gather with local businesses and their employees.  We also know the Partnership is involved with economic activity in our area and is often a conduit to bringing new businesses or retaining existing businesses in our area.  They can be a connecter and value added to bring government or other tax-paying entities together on certain projects.  They can also assist the City with various economic development and tourism tasks.

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?  Continued emphasis on retaining and growing our businesses in the Stephenson County area and attempting to help with workforce development.  Also, continued growth in tourism and especially bringing people in from outside of Stephenson County to help our local economy with non-local spending.  Keeping local dollars in town but expand on importing dollars from outside of the County.  Also, helping local small businesses with growth opportunities and assisting our downtown stay viable via with more events, gathering spaces, and cosmetics of our main downtown corridors.  Continue to enhance our digital presence to attract outsiders to Freeport for tourism dollars.

Gary Quinn, Retired

Gary Quinn, Chair Emeritus

Why were you driven to be on the Partnership board?

In rural Illinois, we have unique challenges, which are more than offset by our unique blessings. I want to help tell the story of who we really are to others.

What do you find of value in the Partnership membership?

The real value of membership is instantly knowing those (the members) who are investing in something bigger than themselves. An old Greek proverb captures this perfectly: “Those who plant trees, knowing that only others will enjoy the shade, are public benefactors.”

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?

The partnership has a lot of data. The data when properly understood; becomes information, then knowledge. I hope we can help people make the best decisions using the very best information available.

Randy Bukas, City of Freeport
City Manager

Randy Bukas, City of Freeport

What do you find of value in the Partnership membership?

The beauty of the Greater Freeport Partnership is that it brought the various local economic groups together and provides a one-stop shop for new and existing businesses. We can now focus our energies and resources in one direction.

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?

The biggest goal for 2022 is providing water and sanitary sewer services to the Mill Race Crossing area. This will open up new opportunities for economic development in Stephenson County.

Scott Helms, Board Member of Stephenson County Board

Scott Helms, Stephenson County Board

Why were you driven to be on the Partnership board?

Economic Development is a function that must be centrally coordinated and managed for long term success in our community.  A singular vision and partnership is one of the most critical components for building and maintaining long term prosperity.

What do you find of value in the Partnership membership?

So many diverse and professional individuals – using their unique skill sets to advance community prosperity.

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?

Advancing accomplishments from 2021 and using that foundation to complete projects in 2022; using those successes as a springboard for this year and beyond.

Chris Kuberski, President at Highland Community College

Chris Kuberski, Highland Community College

Why were you driven to be on the Partnership board?

I want to be sure that Highland is in tune and responsive to the needs of our community.  Serving on the Partnership board provides the knowledge and connections that are needed to serve as an educational partner with business and industry.

What do you find of value in the Partnership membership?

The communication and updates provided to members allows members to be proactive rather than reactive to the challenges and opportunities within our region.

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?

I look forward to the Partnership’s continued promotion of the region as a viable place to live, work, and build and/or expand business and industry.

Dr. Anna Alvarado, Superintendent at Freeport School District 145

Dr. Anna Alvarado, Freeport School District 145

Why were you driven to be on the Partnership board?

As superintendent of the Freeport School District 145, it is critical that our district is represented in the Partnership Board. I believe that a school district is not able to function in isolation from its community. The work of the district is driven by the future economic stability of our community. Therefore, we have to constantly think about how we strengthen our educational system that will afford our students the ability to participate as productive members of Freeport as they move towards developing skills that prepare them for the future workforce. This is part of our mission statement.

What do you find of value in the Partnership membership?

I value the networking and camaraderie among business leaders and owners in our community. I value hearing the progress that the business community is making towards making Freeport as a town where young families should consider. The public school plays a critical role in the decisions that families make for their children. Therefore, I want to make sure that we make Freeport School District145 a premier public school in the near future as a viable choice for families.

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?

I look forward to the Partnership expanding its influence to a more diversified group of individuals that can participate in the important process of building our community into a more economically sustainable neighborhood. We want to think outside the box on how we can be more inclusive and integrate ourselves into something that is representative of the exciting future that is ahead of us.

Mike Marten, Owner of Mort’s Bar & Grill

Mike Marten, Board Member

Why were you driven to be on the Partnership board?

I chose to serve on the Partnership board to not only continue to educate myself on our local economy and city operations, but also to make sure that I am in the room to add any insight from a small business owner’s standpoint. Our city needs driven people with different outlooks to find the same lens and continue to push us towards a positive vision.

What do you find of value in the Partnership membership?

There are many different assets to the Partnership that I value. As a board director, I have the chance to learn, as a member I get to network. We have a variety of driven business owners, manufacturers, workers, and entrepreneurs that we can connect with at any time for advice, guidance, or just to have a beer with. I also value the tools the Partnership provides through use of business services, website, social media apps, and annual events that provide our city a positive economic impact.

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?

I always look forward to the yearly events that get our community out into the streets. More so this year I look forward to see how the Partnership builds on these events, especially coming out of a two-year pandemic, and continue to grow our tourism, economy, and a strong local sense of pride for our residents.

Ross Vehmeier board member

Ross Vehmeier, President of Lena Brewing Company

Ross Vehmeier, Board Member

Why were you driven to be on the Partnership board?

As an entrepreneur who owns and builds businesses, I wanted to assist in developing a resource for others that want to build businesses in our area.  What better way than to get involved!

What do you find of value in the Partnership membership?

It’s a one-stop shop of resources for existing and developing businesses in our area.  Whether I’m trying to promote one of our businesses, get involved in events or develop something new I only have to walk through one door.

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?

The continued focus and prosperity for the region.  And for the Partnership Team to hopefully be able to stretch their legs and prosper without a pandemic changing the way we operate on a daily basis!

Amy Baker, President at Citizens State Bank

Amy Baker, Board Member

Why were you driven to be on the board?

My family lives and works in Greater Freeport.  It has been our family’s home for over 20 years and mine personally for 47 years and would like to see our youth come back to live and work here someday as well.  For this to happen we have to keep moving forward and progressing and I want to be a part of making that happen with others that have this same vision.

What do you find of value in the Partnership membership?

I find value in meeting new people that are part of our communities and networking at events.  It allows us to connect with others and become more familiar with our local businesses and not-for-profit organizations in order to provide services to help them grow and better serve.

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?

I look forward to working with the other board members and continuing to build on the vision of bringing our communities together to work towards growing our economy and making them a great place to live, work, and play!  To continue to grow the economy we need a strong workforce able to give of their time and talents to make all of this happen.

Derek Thompson, Senior Project Engineer at Fehr Graham

Derek Thompson, Board Member

Why were you driven to be on the Partnership board?

Being born in Freeport and growing up here, I have always wanted what’s best for the community. That, along with working in/with the City of Freeport at Fehr Graham, my hope is that I can add a positive contribution to the greater Freeport area through the Partnership.

What do you find of value in the Partnership membership?

By having a wide spectrum of members throughout the community come together with the same common goal, a lot can be accomplished. This platform allows members the opportunity to make an impact on our area.

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?

Being a new member, I look forward to meeting the board members and learning in-depth how the Partnership contributes to the community. In the COVID era, my hope is that in 2022 the Partnership can accomplish as much as they have pre-COVID, despite current challenges.

Anthony Peska, Attorney at Mahoney & Mahoney

Anthony Peska, Board Member

Why were you driven to be on the Partnership board?

To be surrounded by forward thinkers who all have a common goal to make our community a better place.

What do you find of value in the Partnership membership?

Name and business promotion.

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?

I hope we can help lay a foundation where new business is excited and eager to break ground locally.

Carolyn Mitchell, Director of Sales & Marketing at Hughes Resources

Carolyn Mitchell, Board Member

Why were you driven to be on the Partnership board?

I’ve spent the last 12 years volunteering within our schools and the school fund in Freeport.  I am excited to pivot a bit to the business end of our community.  People and connection are my thing – I look forward to finding my sweet spot within the work done by the Partnership!

What do you find of value in the Partnership membership?

All of us at Hughes value the networking events and the insight shared regularly by the Partnership.  Our teams are enriched by the various programs like WEN and the efforts that pull folks together around topics like workforce enhancement.

What do you look forward to the Partnership accomplishing in 2022?

I hope to see the Partnership board figure out how to stay relevant in changing times.  My vision for the Partnership is to be the ‘table’ we all sit around to share and grow our workforce and local business ecosystem.  At Hughes Resources, being an active participant in bettering the communities we live in is a core tenet of our philosophy.  I personally love how this aligns with the Partnership’s mission – hence my enthusiasm to join the board.

Key Industries

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Healthcare

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Construction, Plumbing, Heating, & Service

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Private Label Food Manufacturing

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Guest Columnist: Celebrating Native American Heritage Month November 30, 2022 The Partnership is honored to commemorate Native American Heritage Month with a guest column from Kim McIver of Quiet Souls in Freeport. Kim is also an Illinois Road Scholar and award-winning Ojibwa author from the White Earth Reservation in northwest Minnesota. We asked Kim a few questions to provide a better understanding of Native culture.  November is Native American Heritage […]
Giving Thanks November 24, 2022 In this week of Thanksgiving, we thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on some of the many things we have to be thankful for in Freeport and Stephenson County.   New Business and Business Growth – We have celebrated much success with our business community indicated by 21 ribbon cuttings so far in 2022 and three more scheduled in […]