That might be a new face in the Coeur d'Alene Regional Chamber of Commerce's President/CEO's office, but it's sure no stranger to the community.
Linda Coppess, 52, is a Coeur d'Alene native. Since joining the chamber last year, she has served as Vice President of Member Relations and interim President/CEO.
Following the resignation of former President/CEO Derrel Hartwick in mid-September, the chamber board of directors reviewed over 100 applications. But Coppess was always at the top of the stack, board chair Rick Rasmussen said.
"Linda was head and shoulders in front of the other finalists," he said.
A Coeur d'Alene High School and University of Washington graduate, Coppess spent 24 years working at Microsoft, a multinational technology corporation.
There, she held various sales, marketing, and product management leadership roles that took her around the world. Like many young people, Coppess had always dreamed of returning home to Coeur d'Alene but struggled to find career opportunities in the area.
"Her Microsoft experience gives her a giant corporation background, but she also understands what it means to grow up in Coeur d'Alene," Rasmussen said. "It's a win-win situation."
Taking the chamber president/CEO role and continuing giving back to her hometown is an honor, Coppess said.
"I feel like I'm living in my own real-life Hallmark movie," she said. "It's amazing for me to be back home and be able to do this. There's nowhere more beautiful than Coeur d'Alene."
While working at Microsoft, Coppess found her "true passion" people and relationship building with executive audiences. By better understanding what people cared about, Coppess would build programs that generated more value. That resulted in a better and more strategic partnership, she said.
Seeing this skill set, former chamber board chair Heidi Rogers convinced Coppess to take the organization's Vice President of Member Relations position in 2020.
"As soon as I met Linda, I knew she had a passion for the Coeur d'Alene community," said Rogers, Northwest Council for Computer Education CEO. "Having someone with deep roots and a bond to our community is such a major asset for the Coeur d'Alene Regional Chamber."
To Coppess, taking the VPMR position was a "direct step" from her previous role at Microsoft and something she had "been praying about for a long time."
"I was searching for something I could do here that would allow me to use my skills and my experience for our community," Coppess said. "I was able to introduce some of my program and operational experience at Microsoft to help our members engage at a deeper level. We are continually looking for new and fresh ways to get our members better connected, noticed, and supported in our community."
The Coeur d'Alene Regional Chamber is a membership organization that works with over 800 businesses and organizations. Rasmussen said its immersion in the community makes it a critical partner in addressing issues like housing, education, and economic development.
"Linda is going to be vital in economic development, helping to address the public policy issues we stand for on education and being a voice for the businesses we represent," Rasmussen said. "Our future is bright with her as president."
Ann Thomas, past chair of the chamber's board and vice president at Mountain West Bank, described Coppess as "member-focused" with a passion for the community that will be "integral in leading our chamber and the region into the next chapter."
"We're at an exciting time in looking at what the chamber can do for our members," Thomas said. "Linda is all about leading change and looking at those things. She will do a fantastic job getting to know our members and creating new benefits for them."
Since taking on the interim President/CEO role, Coppess has spoken with business leaders and others to identify the community's changing needs and rethink how the chamber can serve them.
"We've got a strong and engaged community here, but how do we evolve our offerings to meet the needs of the world today?" she said. "I am really excited to find new ways to appeal to and add more value for our members."
Economic development, increasing the business community's role in shaping responsible growth, and membership development are top goals for the chamber, Coppess said.
"I think it starts with listening more than speaking," she said. "There are so many issues people are concerned with like infrastructure, workforce development, and education. So how can we, as a business community, help drive those conversations and encourage people to come up with solutions and ideas?"
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Her mind is on business - Coeur d'Alene Press
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