Cooper Whitman

Cooper Whitman is stepping down as President/CEO of the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce, and a search to find his replacement has begun.

Cooper Whitman, the president and CEO of the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce, will step down in mid-April to take the position of economic development specialist with Marion County.

Whitman has led the Corvallis chamber since August 2015.

He said he had mixed emotions about his departure.

“I’m excited for new opportunities, of course. But it’s always difficult to leave a position like this, when you’ve worked hard to have a positive impact on the community and you’re surrounded by such wonderful people,” Whitman added.

David Dodson, chairman of the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, said the search for Whitman’s replacement will begin immediately. The board is forming a search committee, and Whitman will assist the organization in hiring his replacement until his departure, he added.

“I want to speak for the board and the nearly 400 chamber members in saying that we’re sad to see Cooper leave, but we’re excited for the new opportunity for him,” Dodson said.

The benefits of doing business in Corvallis include its location and the beauty of its surroundings, as well as a vibrant downtown — which Whitman believes will continue to thrive despite the real impacts of massive online retailers.

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While most communities battle apathy, Corvallis lacks that issue almost entirely. “It has an engaged citizenry, which creates some challenges, but it has far more benefits than drawbacks,” Whitman said.

The biggest challenge facing Corvallis on many fronts, including for the business climate, is the lack of affordable housing, he said.

“It’s getting a little bit better right now, but we have a real housing need. It kind of permeates everything,” Whitman said.

Whitman himself experienced the craziness of the Corvallis real estate market after taking the reins of the chamber and looking for a house in the area.

The Lake Oswego native came to Corvallis after leading the chamber in Dickinson, North Dakota, an oil boomtown that experienced fantastic growth.

Whitman replaced Kevin Dwyer, who returned to the Seattle area to work as a consultant after serving as the Corvallis chamber’s top officer for more than two years.

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Kyle Odegard can be reached at kyle.odegard@lee.net, 541-812-6077 or via Twitter @KyleOdegard.