BATAVIA – Roger Breisch is about to leave the top Batavia Chamber of Commerce post, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he speaks so enthusiastically about the organization’s future.
The chamber website is undergoing its second relaunch in eight years (the first was in 2006) to allow for better integration with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, Breisch said, as he was sitting in the chamber office in downtown Batavia. Breisch, 62, said social media is something that will play a bigger role for the chamber and local businesses, and he is ready to have someone else lead the way for that and other initiatives.
Breisch has decided to leave the chamber after nearly a decade as executive director. Batavia Access Television Station Manager Holly Deitchman was announced Jan. 22 as Breisch’s successor. His final day on the job will be Friday.
While Breisch figures out the next chapter of his life, he is content with knowing that many businesses over the years wanted to invest in the organization.
“As we brought value to the community, people just naturally showed up and said, ‘That’s what I would like to be a part of,’” Breisch said.
One of the ways Breisch made the chamber an enticing brand was to help start the Batavia Women in Business group. The St. Charles Chamber of Commerce urged Breisch to start a women’s group in Batavia because the St. Charles women’s group was a success. Breisch reached out to businesswoman Jeanne Harms about forming the group, and eventually Batavia Women in Business held its first lunch event in February 2005.
“Roger has added credibility to the chamber,” said Harms, owner of Batavia-based Organize Inc., and a past Batavia Chamber president. “He has brought it up I don’t know how many notches.”
Breisch worked hard to bring businesses from Batavia’s eastside industrial park to the chamber, Harms said. She also spoke of his ability to bring the chamber and government entities together.
Breisch estimates that he attended at least 200 Batavia City Council meetings since he joined the chamber in July 2004. He praised the council, city staff and Batavia MainStreet for the support of businesses, especially during the Wilson Street Bridge reconstruction in 2007 and 2008. Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said the same for Breisch in December, saying Breisch “has been a driving force on the whole idea of downtown redevelopment and strengthening the city’s industrial base. He has helped us see wider horizons.”
Breisch showed the city a different perspective through his philosophical front-page columns in the Batavia Chamber newsletter. The larger questions of “Why we do what we do?” and “What is the meaning of business?” perplexed some but were praised by others, Breisch said.
Attorney Kevin Drendel, partner at Drendel & Jansons Law Group in Batavia, was one of the people who looked forward to reading Breisch’s column. He connected with Breisch’s message that there is more to life than making money.
“Roger has a business background, but he brought a much bigger picture of the world to the chamber of commerce than simply a business focus, and I liked that. That drew me in,” Drendel said.
Even with his achievements, Breisch said that despite chamber membership growing over the years, it did not grow to his expectations. When he started in 2004, there were 200 members, and as of January 2014 there were about 280. With a pre-recession peak of 350 members in 2007, Breisch said he wished there were currently 400 members or more.
Breisch suspects there might be a disconnect between himself and some business owners because of his philosophical take, but he doesn’t get to hear about it much.
“Life is short – if you have something to say, say it,” Breisch said of his columns.
As Breisch looks to do more writing and decides his next move, he is confident that Deitchman will lead the chamber in the right direction. He considers Deitchman a friend and said she will do well because she knows practically everybody in Batavia. Indeed, he said it is those very residents that will make saying goodbye hard for him.
“I think I’ll miss the people in the chamber, the members, more than anything else,” Breisch said.