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Chambers can be a city’s best friend

Director helps bring community and businesses together as partners in progress

SYCAMORE – Rose Marie Treml noted that there are pumpkins on display near the stone welcome signs near Sycamore’s downtown, welcoming visitors to the historic district. People in the community had put them there around mid-October, preparing for the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival.

They were still there at the end of the month, undistributed for weeks, even after the festival.

“How many towns do you know that you could actually put pumpkins out on a corner of a Main Street and, and they’re still there?” she said. “That’s just the way it is in Sycamore. ... I wish I could tell you what it is because if I knew, I’d bottle it up and sell it.”

Treml has been executive director of the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce since 2002. She had lived in Sycamore for 6 years before then, but worked at the Geneva Chamber of Commerce in events and marketing.

Earlier this year, she joined Shaw Media Illinois’ Corporate Advisory Board, a group of professional leaders from throughout northern Illinois who are helping the company as it charts its future course.

“Chambers (of commerce) have a huge impact on the community as a whole,” Treml said. “We do everything from helping businesses succeed to creating events to bring people downtown. ... It’s economic development.”

The Sycamore chamber has more than 500 members. Former Mayor Ken Mundy said that membership has probably doubled since Treml took over.

“The chamber has been a huge part of the city for so long,” he said. “Rose strengthened the chamber’s position in the city.”

Mundy was Sycamore’s city treasurer when Treml was named executive director. He worked closely with her in that role, and their working relationship continued after he was elected mayor in 2005. He said that at one point some people on the City Council were skeptical about the city’s annual subsidy to the chamber and whether it was right to use public funds for the organization.

Mundy said Treml changed the view of the doubters.

The chamber of commerce serves several roles for the community, Treml said. It promotes tourism in Sycamore, getting people into town to eat at restaurants and shop at stores.

“That’s the Discover Sycamore part,” Treml said. “The other part is what most chambers do. ... We help businesses market and promote themselves to residents and to other businesses.”

Although Treml spends a lot of hours working at the chamber – “She works hard. People have no idea the hours she works,” Mundy said – Treml is also involved In a number of local boards and non-profit events.

She serves as a director for the DeKalb County Economic Development Corp., Kishwaukee Valley YMCA and Kishwaukee College Foundation. She is also on the City of Sycamore Growth Management Committee and City of Sycamore Economic Development Committee.

Dave Juday, former CEO at Sycamore-based Ideal Industries, said he worked with Treml on many events, involving workforce development in the community.

“For a community to be successful, we really have to have all folks working together, and she does a nice job of bringing the assets of the chamber into the larger community picture,” Juday said.

This past summer, Treml helped organize the Sycamore Strong fundraiser following a fire that destroyed a building at the city’s St. Albans Green apartment complex in July, displacing more than 120 people.

The fire was on a Saturday night, and crews fought it into the early hours of the next day. On Sunday morning, Treml said she received a call from David Miller of the band Back Country Roads.

“He said ‘We want to help,’ “ Treml remembered. Blumen Gardens provided event space, and Taxco Restaurant organized local bars to provide alcohol, Sycamore United Methodist Church Youth Ministries designed and sold T-shirts and, by 4 p.m., Treml said, the fundraiser was planned. “It was put together literally within 4 hours.”

The event raised more than $73,000 for victims of the fire, Treml said, with community members dropping checks off in the office. Treml said Ideal helped by matching donations.

Each year, Treml also helps organize the 10K Sycamore Pumpkin Run during Pumpkin Fest. In 2009, she remembered, she brought the tradition abroad. Teaming up with the Illinois National Guard, Treml worked with a team to bring the Pumpkin Run to Kuwait.

When she’s not working, Treml said she likes to spend time with her two grown children, Keri, who teaches third grade in Michigan, and Colan, who will be graduating college shortly.

Treml said she couldn’t describe what makes the Sycamore community special. She said Mundy used to say once you dip your toes in the Kishwaukee River, you’ll be back.

“She’s a strong, professional woman,” Mundy said. “She’s a great mom, a great worker for the chamber, and a lovely, lovely lady.”

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