Janine S. Creager
May 1, 2008
Whether spending Thanksgiving Day in Plymouth, MA, or schussing through Utah powder, Natalie Gochnour believes in living a life rich in experiences. Currently COO of the Salt Lake Chamber, Gochnour also spent two years in Washington, D.C. by the side of Michael Leavitt, former Utah governor, now serving as Secretary of Health and Human Services.
“I had the good fortune of having mentors, people who supervise you, motivate and inspire you. My chief mentor was [Mike Leavitt], someone who is the consummate problem solver,” Gochnour says. “He works with all interests to make progress…He is an incredible strategic thinker, a gifted communicator and a really kind person.”
Of those years spent in Washington, Gochnour says, “The exposure and the intensity you have are things I’ll never forget.”
When Gochnour returned to Utah in 2005, she embarked on a new experience. She was hired by Salt Lake Chamber President Lane Beattie to head the Downtown Rising project, an aggressive 40-year plan “to enhance our capital city,” says Gochnour. “In my interest, I became persuaded that we had a multiple vision for our city.” Gochnour interviewed 75 downtown Salt Lake business leaders to understand their needs and goals. With myriad signature components, including a permanent public market and the establishment of the World Trade Center Utah, the project is well on its way to redefining the downtown area.
While she is no longer involved in the Downtown Rising endeavors on a day-to-day basis, the relationships she built along the way are a vital part of her work as the chamber’s Chief Operating Officer. The strength of the chamber comes from it’s members and what they have to offer one another, Gochnour explains. And with more than 85 percent of chamber members employing 50 employees or fewer, it’s not just the big guys that can make a difference in the state.
As smaller businesses become involved in the chamber, she adds, they benefit not only from training, networking and exposure, but are also able to expand the voice of small business owners everywhere as they share their successes and needs with other chamber members.
“It’s very important to us to provide services to both the small businesses and the large businesses…We are actively working to improve our economy and ensure our members’ success.”
Among Gochnour’s many talents and interests, her love of the game of soccer ranks near the top of the list. She played for more than 25 years, beginning in the mid 70s during the first year of the women’s division of the Utah Women’s Soccer Association.
“I used to say to myself that the happiest moments [of my life] were right before kickoff, focusing on one thing,” she says.
Although she finds herself more often on the sidelines rather than in the thick of the play, the focus, endurance and team spirit honed during her heyday on the soccer field are now being channeled into her work with the Salt Lake Chamber.
“It’s all about perspective – seeing the world through different eyes and different lenses,” she says. “We are a chamber that is speaking out and has significant momentum, and we’re asking people to join."