Honorable Mentions

Madison Chamber honors
Forrester, Fox at annual dinner

Member services to be focus
of efforts in 2014, board says

(February 2014) – When Matt Forrester moved to Madison, Ind., in 1999 to take the position of president and chief financial officer at River Valley Financial Bank, he hit the ground running. The Fort Wayne, Ind., native immediately joined the Madison Rotary Club and has since helped promote and develop programs at several nonprofit agencies.


Photo by Don Ward

Matt Forrester receives his Community Service award Jan. 22 from Katie Wood, representing the Madison Area Chamber.

Through Forrester’s leadership and dedication to the community, River Valley Financial Bank’s motto as a “hometown bank” has been demonstrated by its contributions to many charities, including the Lide White Boys & Girls Club, the Salvation Army, and the United Way, among others. Forrester helped establish La Casa Amiga, which serves the needs of local Hispanics. And he serves on several boards, including the Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County, Girls Incorporated, King’s Daughters’ Health Foundation Cancer Center Project, the Madison Redevelopment Commission, the Madison State Hospital Reuse Commission, the Madison Bicentennial Committee, and the Jefferson County Industrial Development Corp. Forrester served on the Indiana Bankers Association board from 2008-2010. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Hanover College.
So it is no surprise that Forrester’s dedication and service to his community was rewarded Jan. 22 when the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce presented him with its prestigious Jeff Garrett Community Service Award. Forrester joined an elite group of former winners and gave an emotional acceptance speech before a sellout crowd of 275 chamber members and guests at the 90th annual Madison Chamber Annual Dinner, held at Hanover College’s J. Graham Brown Campus Center.
He also co-chaired capital campaigns for Girls Inc. from 2009-2011 and Ivy Tech Community College when it built its new facility a few years ago. Recently, his bank has sponsored the Community Artist Series events at Hanover College and is a regular sponsor of nearly every local festival in town.
“This means an awful lot to me and to my family and the bank,” said Forrester, 57. “We’re a hometown bank, and River Valley has given back to this community more than any other entity, and I’m very proud of that fact. I’m a small town guy from Fort Wayne, and I love this town and all it has given to me. I very much appreciate this recognition.”

Cara Fox

Photo by Don Ward

Cara Fox, left, receives the Business Citizenship Award from last year’s winners, John and Lori Heitz.

A graduate of Wabash College with a master’s degree from the University of St. Francis, Forrester left his job as senior vice president and chief financial officer at Home Loan Bank in Indianapolis to take the position at River Valley in Madison. In addition to his charitable service, he is also active in his church, North Madison Christian Church, where he participates in monthly food giveaways and weekly Bible studies.
The chamber also awarded its annual Business Citizenship Award, which this year was presented to Cara Fox, owner of The Little Golden Fox boutique, located on Madison’s Main Street. The award is presented to a business owner who has demonstrated leadership, vision, innovation and dedication to the county.
Fox’s innovative approach includes many offerings to her customers, such as wine and canvas nights, children’s birthday parties and workshops. She supports local artists and crafters by featuring their work in her store.
She first opened her business in September 2011 at 402 Broadway St. But her success and growth and the need for more space has prompted her to now move her business to a larger space, the former Weisbecker building at 602 W. Main St. She plans to re-open there by mid-February.
She told the crowd that her success over the past 2 ½ years “has been a great start, and it’s all because of all of you. We’ve outgrown our space and I am very excited to be moving to a larger place so we can do even more things.”
In addition to the two awards, the event included a cocktail reception and formal transition from outgoing board president Marta Belt of Ivy Tech to incoming board president Ben Foley, an accountant at Sherman, Barber & Mullikin. Foley and Madison Chamber Executive Director Trevor Crafton presented reviews of the activities over the past year.
Crafton was credited with personally recruiting nearly 70 new chamber members last year, increasing membership by 20 percent, from 292 members in January 2012 to 364 members today. The chamber reported an 85 percent retention rate among existing members.
In addition, successes in 2013 included more than 15 ribbon-cutting events for newly opened businesses, more than 25 networking events, revival of the annual chamber golf scramble, participation in the second annual Regional Business Expo with three neighboring counties, and a record-setting crowd and booth rental at its annual Soup, Stew, Chili & Brew festival, held each October on Main Street. The chamber also sold $58,000 in “Good Cents Gift Certificates,” a program designed to help keep money spent in the county. In addition to its own educational sessions, the chamber also manages a $7,500 fund to hold business workshops organized by the Small Business Development Center, based in New Albany.
Last year the chamber board also completed a revision of its employee handbook and updated it by-laws.
“All in all, it was a good year for 2013, and we hope to build on that in 2014,” Foley said. “It’s been a year filled with momentum and positivity.” He added that while last year’s focus under Belt was to increase membership, the focus this year will be to increase member services.
The chamber also took an active role in the discussions and studies to renovate Madison Consolidated High School. Crafton last year served on the MCHS building project task force and gave his personal support to the $40 million building proposal, a referendum for which will appear on the May primary election ballot. The proposal would renovate the now shuttered Anderson Elementary and Madison Consolidated High School and possibly repurpose E.O. Muncie Elementary School.
The chamber plans to hold a public session on the topic at its monthly “Work it Wednesday” free business luncheon, set for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the chamber conference room.

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