Rio pride fills Gallia Chamber
RIO GRANDE, Ohio – From small business owner to now executive director of the Gallia County Chamber of Commerce, Michelle Miller is determined to see our community’s business landscape flourish and continue to blossom new opportunities for growth.
Since she took on her new chamber role in November, Miller has been busy finalizing standing plans with the chamber board, including the rollout of a new tiered membership structure aimed at better catering to all businesses types — from smallest to largest, with small spending budgets to large ones.
“Having owned my business, I know the very unique challenges small business owners face,” said Miller, who earned degrees from the University of Rio Grande in theater and English and studied business. “We kind of lost an understanding, that by helping local business, it helps an ecosystem.”
In October 2011, the Alpha Mu Beta sorority alumnea founded and launched galliaherald.com, an online news site known as the Gallia Hometown Herald. While her local news outlet quickly rose to success, her growth as a business leader has been years in the making, both in the professional and educational settings.
Earlier that year, while working as an administrative assistant at the chamber for then executive director Lorie Neal, Miller felt an urge to return to the University of Rio Grande for a third time. Having worked closely with businesses in that position for two years and with the chamber’s support, she decided to pursue her Master’s in Business Administration.
It became apparent during her studies at Rio that, while she eventually wanted to start a business, it was her business project idea that was destined to become a reality.
“It was one of those moments to try it and do it,” said Miller, who stopped short of completing her degree to fully invest her time in both the Gallia Hometown Herald and tend to her young family’s needs. “I had served as a reporter for the local newspaper for a couple of years, and I liked that world, that job. It was a skill set that I already somewhat had.”
Miller readily acknowledges how valuable Rio’s MBA program was in her journey to achieve business success.
“If it wasn’t for that program, I would have never started it,” Miller said of galliaherald.com, which under her watch, averaged 5,000 views a day from local readers, as well as from many people who once lived locally and moved away to different parts of the country.
Through the program and with the guidance of professors, Miller says she was able to “pick apart” her idea to determine if it was viable. She was then empowered to take a website she had started in her home and provide valuable information to the community, even reaching readers as far away as Florida and California.
Miller forged strong business relationships locally, and before being appointed as the chamber’s executive director in November, sold her news site to Carrie Gloeckner, owner and founder of the Meigs Independent Press. Gloeckner, also an alumna of the Rio, plans to keep the publications separate entities.
“Michelle is an excellent example of the impact a Rio Grande education can have,” said Annette Ward, director of Alumni Relations. “She has been able to navigate and find success in personal and professional arenas due, in part, to her studies here as an undergraduate and graduate student. Alumni of Rio Grande, like Michelle, are well positioned to meet their goals and dreams.”
Kyla Carpenter, the chamber board’s immediate past president, is confident in the board’s decision to appoint Miller to what is viewed as a crucial position in the community.
“Her experience as a small business owner will serve our members well, providing valuable insight into the unique needs of our business community,” Carpenter said. “We are excited to learn about Michelle’s innovative ideas to enrich the chamber’s value for our membership.”
Lorie Neal, also a Rio alumna, served as chamber executive director for 12 years before she unexpectedly passed away at the age of 40 in September.
Miller, née Morris, is a native of Jackson County, Ohio. She earned her associate’s in Technical Theater and bachelor’s in English Literature in 1998 and 2006, respectively. Her husband Tim Miller works for Gallia County. They have two children, son Trent, 15, and daughter Sydney, 11.