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Chamber Blog

Introducing the first Chamber Champion, Karen McCarthy

Introducing the first Chamber Champion, Karen McCarthy

What is a Chamber Champion?

A Chamber Champion is a new recognition that the Grand Rapids Chamber will begin celebrating in 2021. Throughout the year, we’ll highlight the individuals who go above and beyond to Create Great in West Michigan. Today, we are proud to introduce Karen McCarthy, Community Affairs Manager with Consumers Energy, as our first Chamber Champion recognition in 2021!

Learn more about Karen below!


What is the value you feel you have received through the Grand Rapids Chamber?

When I moved here in 1987, I was looking for opportunities to meet people and build my network. The Chamber has been an important resource, providing a wealth of opportunities to connect with business, community, and government leaders. Through Consumers Energy’s membership and sponsorships, we’ve been able to share information on business customer programs and work on issues that impact the business community. On a personal level, I’ve enjoyed learning from guest speakers, seminars, and leadership training programs. Along the way, I’ve made a lot of good friends and had a lot of fun.

What are key things you have learned throughout your career?

Be agile; the ability to pivot quickly to meet a new challenge is critical in today’s world. Nurture your skills and look for opportunities to develop new ones. Every day is a new opportunity to make a difference; leave it better than you found it. When you have a disappointing experience, learn from it, and try again. Be open to opinions and cultures that are different from your own. Care about your colleagues. Take care of yourself.  Make time for family and friends. Share your time, talent, and treasure.

What inspired you to be involved in the work of the Grand Rapids Chamber?

I came here from Lansing, where I worked in the State Legislature. The Chamber had a strong reputation for political involvement and candidate support, which I respected. I’m a firm believer in the adage, “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” You’ve got to be involved, and the Chamber offers a variety of ways to do that. My company was a founding member of the Grand Rapids Chamber (Board of Trade) over 130 years ago, so it was a natural fit for me to become involved, continue the legacy, and encourage my coworkers to participate.

Tell us about your role at Consumers Energy, and why you feel passionate about it.

I represent Consumers Energy in the community and help identify and address emerging issues and concerns. I’ve always said I’m an advocate for customers within Consumers Energy and an advocate for my company with the public. I collaborate with colleagues to resolve concerns and inform people about the value we bring to everyday life and work, and the complexities of balancing safety, reliable service, cost-effectiveness, protecting the environment while valuing diversity. I lead employee engagement in the community and work with the Consumers Energy Foundation to support local non-profits (over $8 million in the last 5 years!). I’ve always loved the variety in my role – there’s never a dull moment! I’ve been blessed to work for a great company for nearly 38 years.

What inspired you to be involved with events and committees through the work of our Government Affairs team?

I previously worked for the Michigan Legislature so was well aware of the inner workings of government, its impact on the business community, and the importance of supporting and working for candidates who share your philosophy. The GRC had a positive reputation in that arena and I was happy to lend my expertise and learn about our local issues and leaders. They have a very engaged team, and it’s been great working with them.

What do you love most about Grand Rapids, and why did you choose to put your roots here throughout your career?

There are so many wonderful things to love about Grand Rapids! Its growing economy, engaged leaders, exciting arts and culture scene, clean air, and water, all combine to make this a great place to live and work. I enjoy the four definite seasons that come in, intensify, and then change – each bringing its own beauty. I’ve met so many wonderful people who are friendly and helpful.

What does being a Chamber Champion mean to you?

It’s a rewarding recognition of the partnership I’ve enjoyed for over 30 years. I’d like to thank my company, Consumers Energy, for their support and encouragement. Thank you so very much for this recognition! It’s been an honor and a pleasure to be part of the Grand Rapids Chamber.

Anything else you’d like to share?

It’s been exciting and fun to watch the Chamber grow and develop a strong, talented, diverse team and membership. Their dynamic leadership has had many positive impacts on our community, region, and state.

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