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No More Interim: Brent Cooper Named NKY Chamber President & CEO

In his second stint as interim president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Brent Cooper is staying on for the long haul.

The Chamber's board of directors announced Wednesday that Cooper, 47, will remain as president and CEO of the region's largest business organization on a permanent basis.

Cooper, founder of Covington-based IT firm C-Forward, is the Chamber's sixth president.

"I am honored, humbled, and grateful to be selected to lead an organization that I admire and that has been a part of my life for years," Cooper said. "I know from experience that the Chamber is a successful, committed, and tireless advocate for the business community .

"As we look forward to the Chamber celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019, I stand ready to provide the same type of focused and engaged leadership that has been the hallmark of past Chamber presidents."

Cooper has been active in the Chamber and has also served as chairman of the board of directors. He founded C-Forward 18 years ago and will retain ownership while turning over day-to-day operations of the business to his management team.

He was chosen after a national search led by Cincinnati-based executive search firm Centennial Inc.

According to a news release, the Chamber's top job - vacant since Trey Grayson stepped down earlier this year - attracted "an impressive national talent pool". The vetting process included an extensive evaluation of character, culture, chemistry, and competency, according to the news release.

"We believe this is our time," said Chamber chairman Bob Heil, president and CEO of KLH Engineers. "We are excited to have the energy level, passion, knowledge and relationships of Brent Cooper at the helm. Brent understands first-hand the impact a successful Chamber of Commerce has on businesses. He also understands how important it is for the Northern Kentucky Chamber to be the strongest organization it can be."

“Brent Cooper’s selection as president presents a wealth of opportunity for this region given his proven business acumen, and grasp of complex issues," said Kevin Canafax, vice president of public affairs for Fidelity Investments and a member of the executive search committee. "As a member of the Cincinnati Chamber Board and past Chairman of the Kentucky Chamber, I witnessed first-hand Brent’s effusive passion for our region and the Commonwealth. Brent has never met a stranger.”

In addition to twice serving as Interim President, Cooper has served on various Chamber committees over the years, is an alumnus of Leadership Northern Kentucky, and is active on numerous education, philanthropic, and civic boards.

Incoming Chamber chairwoman Rhonda Whitaker, director of Government & Community Relations for Duke Energy Kentucky, said Cooper's experience with the Chamber, in the community, and in growing his business stood out in the selection process.

"I've had the great pleasure of working with Brent Cooper on various community boards and Chamber committees for years, and have always been impressed with his energy and passion for Northern Kentucky and the entire Greater Cincinnati region," Whitaker said. "Brent's unique skill set is highly relatable to Chamber members and staff."

Whitaker becomes chair on September 1, ahead of the Chamber's annual awards and dinner program in Covington.

"Brent started an IT company from scratch, and now it is one of the most successful technology companies in the region," she said. "He can not only relate to our business community, but he can show the value of our Chamber and how it can help other businesses prosper."

Centennial President Mike Sipple Jr. said the Chamber's executive search committee engaged their firm to identify leaders who define what it means to lead, connect, and advocate.

"Brent's leadership, passion, business growth, and an entrepreneur's spirit were the right match for one of our regions premier business-building organizations," Sipple said. "Brent also brings a tremendous regional and statewide perspective to the conversation of one of the hottest marketplaces in the country.”

Cooper previously served as interim president for several months in 2014 after the departure of former president Steve Stevens. He served as chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors in 2011-12.

"I've always truly believed is this Chamber," Cooper said. "I know the staff, the membership, the issues, challenges, and opportunities we face as a Chamber and as a community. Every member of my management team at C-Forward has gone through the Chamber's Leadership Northern Kentucky program. And I know from my past experience what this Chamber has done and what it will be able to accomplish. This Chamber helped me grow my business, and it helped me grow as a leader."

Cooper is a graduate of Leadership NKY (2005) and Leadership Cincinnati (2016) and currently serves on a number of boards including the Kentucky State Chamber Board, Baptist Health Board, Northern Kentucky University Foundation Board, Northern Kentucky Convention Center Board, and Strive Partnership Board. Brent also regularly contributes opinion columns to local publications such as The River City News.   

Additionally, Cooper has chaired the Northern Kentucky Workforce Investment Board (2007-2009) and has received a number of awards over the years including the Covington Education Foundation’s “Person of the Year” (2017),  Kentucky Board of Education’s Joseph Kelly Award (2016), Children, Inc.’s “Charity in Action” Award (2015), 4C’s Champion for Children Award (2014), the Northern Kentucky Chamber’s Unity Award (2014), the Boy Scouts Trailblazer Award (2013), the Kenton County Library Mary Ann Mongan Award (2012), and the Northern Kentucky Area Development District’s Community Leadership Award (2005). In 2006 he was named one of the "Forty Under 40" award-winners by the Cincinnati Business Courier.  

Brent lives in Fort Thomas with his wife Lisa, the executive director of the Northern Kentucky Area Development District (NKADD), and their two daughters, Sydney & Emma.

-Staff report
Photo: Brent Cooper