Local residents stopping by the Granite Falls Area Chamber of Commerce office might have noticed a new face greeting them; Jennifer Penoyer was recently hired as the new Executive Director.

Earlier this summer, the Chamber announced that they were making the position full-time. Several candidates applied but the Chamber Board ultimately decided to hire a new leader. Penoyer has only been on the job for a few weeks but explained that she is already hard at work building relationships with the local business community.

Penoyer is a graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management and a minor in Business Administration. After college, she worked for a large retail clothing store for five years in the cities before purchasing an old farmhouse outside of Maynard that belonged to her fiance Kyle’s grandparents.

Although she has only been here for a few weeks, Penoyer says that “everybody has been so nice and welcoming.” The couple plan on getting married in September in Granite Falls. Penoyer calls the move a “lifestyle change,” but adds that the pair are loving it. They are working on small projects around the house to make it their own, and enjoy spending time with their families and their golden retriever, Ava.

“The beauty of the city [Granite Falls] attracted me to this position,” Penoyer said. Long interested in owning her own business, Penoyer is excited by the opportunities to leverage her own skills and experiences to help local entrepreneurs grow their businesses and their community.

“My mission is to be the advocate for the business community,” Penoyer explained, adding that she will focus on “keeping business alive and viable for the community.” She says that trust is at the foundation for her relationship with local business owners and that she looks forward to getting to know local residents better.

Penoyer says that she has a very outgoing personality, which she thinks will give her an advantage at the Chamber. “I have an open mind for change,” she elaborated. She hopes to get more businesses involved with the Chamber and is excited to hear new ideas.

Her top priority will be growing the Chamber’s member list and informing the community about the full potential of the Chamber. “I want to be a familiar face in the community,” Penoyer said. Penoyer described the first several weeks as “very, very, very busy,” making it hard for her to get out and about. The start of her tenure coincided with several big events such as the Ray Fagen Memorial Air Show and the Western Fest Rodeo. She hopes to get more involved in the coming weeks as she settles in to her new position.

During her conversation with the Advocate Tribune, the new Chamber Director also touched on the challenges she sees facing the Granite Falls area, as well as the unique opportunities awaiting the community. “We need to get the community more involved in Chamber events,” she explained. She also stressed the need for greater engagement with those who are no longer members. By building a wider base of support, she hopes to capitalize on “Granite Falls as a tourist destination” and encourage “more people from outside to travel through here.” In her role as Chamber Director, Penoyer also heads up the Granite Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau - providing her with additional tools and resources from Explore Minnesota. “I will do whatever I can to promote Granite Falls,” she said with determination.

Already, big changes are underway at the Chamber. Penoyer recently announced that the Chamber plans on moving their offices from the KK Berge Building to 676 Prentice street (the old golf simulator). “Sharing a location [with the Granite Area Arts Council] wasn’t in the best interest of the Chamber,” she clarified. Penoyer envisions the new location having automated doors to provide residents and out of town visitors with longer hours, even when she isn’t there in person. Penoyer stressed that if she is not in her office she is likely out in the community and can be reached on her cell phone. “It’s not fair to the community to have to lock our doors to our tourist information when I’m not there,” she added. “It will be nice to have our own space.”

Penoyer is eager to get to work, and says she can’t wait to set down her roots in Granite Falls. Local residents are encouraged to visit the Chamber office when the new space opens. Penoyer can be reached via email at granitefallschamberofcommerce@gmail.com, or via cell phone at their new number 320-321-3202.