By Margaret Stadtwald
On Monday, December 16th, Erik Reader assumed the role of Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GMCCI) President and CEO following the retirement of Greg Jenkins. As Reader acclimates to his new role, he will bring both experience and new ideas to the position.
Reader grew up in Geneva, Illinois. He attended college at Western Illinois University where he met his future wife. The couple lived in Saint Charles, Illinois before spending five years in Dallas, Texas. Reader and his wife then returned to Pekin, closer to her family. After six years, the Readers relocated to Rock Island where he served as the Executive Director of the Development Association of Rock Island.
During his time in Pekin and Rock Island, Reader gained experience and expertise working with non-profit organizations. In Pekin, Reader served on the Mainstreet planning committee and worked for Startup Peoria, a non-profit that helped local small businesses. Reader also co-founded Bike Peoria, a group focused on increasing biking opportunities in the area.
Recently, Reader saw that the GMCCI had an opening for a new President and CEO. It piqued his interest. “When I see a like-minded organization, I want to dive in and learn more about it,” he shared.
As Reader researched the GMCCI, several features stood out to him. “In a lot of communities, [the convention and visitors bureau and chamber of commerce are] separate entities . . . they don’t always work well together. I noticed that they’re under one roof [here] and that’s not something you see a lot. It seems like there are some good things going on here.” After Reader reached out to the GMCCI, he took the opportunity to apply and eventually accepted the job.
Now that Reader has taken up his post, he looks forward to using Muscatine County’s positive features to move it forward. Reader identified the area’s, “tons of natural resources,” as a draw for tourism.
Reader also found the region’s varied industries a benefit, stating Muscatine County benefits from having, “a strong and diverse industrial base.” While working in Pekin and Rock Island, he found having only one large industrial employer (Caterpillar and John Deere respectively) created economic stress when they had layoffs. By having multiple employers, he believes Muscatine County can avoid economic downturns more easily.
Finally, Reader finds Muscatine’s, “active community stakeholders,” and, “pretty generous philanthropy,” beneficial forces.
Utilizing these resources, Reader will tackle what he identifies as Muscatine’s greatest challenge, changing perceptions. In every city he assisted, Reader found that negative attitudes about a place, paired with a lack of information for outside communities, made it difficult for them to grow and thrive. By building a more positive identity, providing accurate information about economic opportunities, and investing in local businesses, Reader believes he can help bring more economic growth to Muscatine County. As he starts working with the team at the GMCCI, Reader looks forward to answering the question of, “how do we broadcast the good things going on here?”