VP, Public Affairs & Communications
Successful business owner, active Chamber member poised to lead Northern Kentucky’s largest business advocacy organization
FORT MITCHELL – Brent Cooper, a successful entrepreneur and small business owner who for years has been an active and engaged leader in the regional business community, has been named the sixth president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Cooper, 47, who has led Covington-based C-Forward Information Technologies since he founded the company at age 29 and who has twice served as interim Chamber president, was chosen following a thorough vetting and interview process of numerous outstanding candidates managed by the Cincinnati executive search firm Centennial Inc.
“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 said.
Cooper will maintain ownership in C-Forward but has turned over day-to-day operations to his management team.
The Executive Search Committee selected a national search firm, Centennial, to lead the committee and board through a thorough, efficient and effective process for this critical leadership position. Centennial’s “4C Recruiting Process®” ensures alignment of stakeholders in a very effective and thorough way. This included extensive evaluation of character, culture, chemistry and competency. Centennial is known for their detail orientation, deep network and national executive search experience which led us to the right leader for the Northern Kentucky Chamber.
The position attracted an impressive national talent pool that included business leaders and executives who had a deep interest in the opportunity. Executive Search Committee members saw that as an indication that Northern Kentucky’s growth and vibrancy inspired leaders nationwide to want to be a part of the region’s success, potential and opportunities.
“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, is active on numerous education, philanthropic and civic boards and as a long-time Chamber member he has utilized the organization’s resources, mentoring, education opportunities and more to help grow a successful business.
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 skillset is highly relatable to Chamber members and staff. As my role as chairwoman begins Sept. 1, I look forward to the positive impact his leadership will have on our business community and the momentum that exists in Northern Kentucky.
“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.
Sipple said Cooper’s attributes that swayed and impressed the Search Committee included his proven leadership skills and ability to build and guide high performing teams; his ability to see, communicate and develop a vision; his network of regional, state and national relationships; and his knowledge and understanding of complex issues facing the business community.
“Brent’s leadership, passion, business growth and an entrepreneur’s spirit was 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 has been serving as interim president since former President Trey Grayson resigned earlier this year. He also served as interim president for several months in 2014 after the departure of former President Steve Stevens. And 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 is also an active “Community Columnist” for the Kentucky Enquirer, Northern Kentucky Tribune and the River City News.
He 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 awarded the “Forty Under 40” award by the Cincinnati Business Courier.
Brent lives in Fort Thomas with his wife Lisa and their two daughters, Sydney & Emma.
The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Inc., founded in 1969, is the leading business organization in Northern Kentucky. It is a Five-Star Accredited Chamber with nearly 1,500 member companies representing approximately 175,000 employees. The Chamber focuses its efforts on education, workforce development, international trade, leadership development, and government relations at the federal, state and local level. Bob Heil, Principal, President & CEO of KLH Engineers, is the Chairman of the Board and Brent Cooper is the President and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. Additional information on the Chamber is available at www.nkychamber.com.
Centennial is a talent strategy and executive search based in Cincinnati, OH with offices in Manhattan as well. Centennial conducts searches across all 50 states and represents clients in 13 different countries. Organizations and leaders have trusted Centennial to deliver solution-focused services and results since 1975. Centennial empowers organizations to plan, hire, retain, and grow.