About Us

The mission of the Marquette Chamber of Commerce is to enhance quality of life by supporting the business community in the Marquette Area.

We believe in earning and maintaining a strong image and reputation among all our stakeholders; our members, our communities, our elected officials, and our partners. Our benefits and services will only be as good as our current and prospective members perceive them. For this reason, we will incorporate our values into messages and actions that we sincerely believe in. We will adhere to these values as a means to establish trust and a confidence in our community role.

•Resourcefulness – We will continually foster awareness of the Chamber as an effective resource for business support and holistic prosperity in our communities.

•Inclusiveness – We will embrace the rich diversity of our region and its businesses.

•Leadership – Remaining true to our role as the business leader in the Marquette Area, we will strive for continuous and sustainable improvements in our area businesses, government, education, arts, recreation and cultural communities.

•Advocacy – We are committed to our members and partners to be an advocate for business and for issues that reflect our values and vision as the Chamber.

•Vision – We will take time to pause to envision a future for our region as it should be.

Our Board of Directors

Christian Verardi, President 

Edward Jones

In his nearly four years as a financial advisor and fourteen years as a construction project manager and estimator, Christian has developed very strong organizational and managerial skills.  He has learned that the most valuable of these skills is to empower others to get the job done by fostering an environment of trust and values.  He believes that the most important aspects of anything that a business does has to be centered around it’s relationships with its employees and clients.  By treating employees as partners instead of employees, we all accomplish more.  The same can be said about how clients are treated, which is why he always aims to provide outrageous client service.  To develop these kinds of relationships, he takes a systematic approach and plans his business around these as process goals that ultimately drive the business product goals.

Natasha Koss, Vice President

Northern Initiatives

Natasha Koss is a development professional with Northern Initiatives, specializing in securing funding for NI to help small businesses launch and grow in Michigan. Ms. Koss graduated from Northern Michigan University in 1996 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and then a Master’s of Science in Ecology in 2000. In 2010 Ms. Koss received a certification in Fundraising Management from The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. As a seasoned nonprofit volunteer and professional, Ms. Koss has worked with a variety of organizations throughout Michigan and understands the mission-critical attention it requires to serve in a leadership and governing capacity.  Having been a resident of Marquette for nearly 20 years, Ms. Koss believes building community through a local chamber of commerce means more than just fueling a robust small business ecosystem, but it also requires enhancing, nurturing, and prioritizing all aspects of life from family, recreation, being creative and finding time and space for personal growth.

Rick Rhoades, Treasurer 


Rick Rhoades has worked at WLUC-TV6 since October of 2003. He began his career as a local Account Executive selling advertising and marketing strategies to local UP business. Since 2010, Rick has served as the Local Sales Manager where he manages Account Executives on building relationships in the community, building successful marketing strategies and oversees their professional development. Rick has a great understanding on what is necessary  to build a vibrant local economy. In his free time Rick enjoys to play golf as much as possible and spend as much time as he can with his wife of 14 years and 2 daughters!

Gregory J. Andrews, Board Member


Greg and family moved to Marquette in 2011 at the request of Governor Snyder.  Being raised in Petoskey by parents who instilled a passion for the outdoors, hard work and community, I ventured to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan where I earned a BA in Communications. In the private sector, I chose account management and sales to utilize my organizational/communication tools while providing value for money for my clients.  Pealing back the onion to fully identify and understand the client’s needs are paramount for solution-based selling.  I found this model to be of equal value while managing the northern 37 counties for Rick Snyder during his 2010 gubernatorial race; acting as Governor Snyder’s Director for his northern office and as the Special Projects Coordinator in the executive office in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Patty Barton, Board Member

Barton, Knaffla & Associates, a financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.

Patty has been an active member of the community since moving here in 1977. She’s an NMU alumni and worked as a registered respiratory therapist for 10 years before becoming an Ameriprise Financial Franchise Owner-Financial Advisor which has been her profession since 1999. She’s married to Cal Barton and has one child, Colin Barton. She has also been very active in the community having served on the Marquette Food Cooperative Board for multiple terms over the last 30 years. She was also involved in the Zonta Club of Marquette for 10 years including striven on their board and as president. While she has been involved in other community activities, these are the organizations where she has learned and developed leadership skills.  She believes we have the ability to create the life we want and is passionate about helping our communities create and maintain a great quality of life now and for future generations.

Victoria Leonhardt,  Board Member

Grow & Lead: Community Youth Development

Victoria Leonhardt is an Associate at Grow & Lead: Community and Youth Development (GLCYD). In her role at Grow & Lead, Victoria works on marketing and capacity building events for the organization.  Additionally, she provides technical assistance and facilitation on strategic planning, marketing and nonprofit formation to organizations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Victoria volunteers with NMU SLFP, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Accelerate UP, STAR Children’s Bereavement Services, the YMCA and the Michigan Iron Industry Museum Advisory Board. She actively serves on the Chamber’s Marquette Fourth of July Celebration Committee and Be Local Buy Local Committee. She is a member of Marquette Twilight Rotary and 40 Below: Marquette County Young Professionals, where she served as President in 2016.

Andrea Pernsteiner, Board Member 

Ore Dock Brewing Company

I still have to pinch myself at the idea that I own a craft brewery; specifically one off the shore of Lake Superior in a place that I love and feel blessed to call home.  I grew up in Wisconsin and graduated from UW-LaCrosse/Madison, meeting Wes soon after.  We are partners in crime, partners in life, and partners, along with this group of truly wonderful and dedicated people, in building Ore Dock Brewing Company into everything we hope it can be.  Outside of the brewery, you can find me enjoying UP life with Wes, our kids August (Gus) and Tess and animals Ringo, Elvis, and Smokey.

Sarah Reynolds, Board Member

Hyde & Swajanen

Sarah grew up in a small town outside of Detroit. She attended Northern Michigan University and received a degree in political science and public administration. She has worked as a paralegal and office manager for Hyde & Swajenen. Besides work, the two best decisions she have ever made was marrying her husband, Anthony, and running for city commission. In both circumstances, she was forced out of her comfort zone and has never been happier. She’s running for the Chamber of Commerce board because in the last year she has seen the great programs and projects that it is undertaking, and believes her experience as city commissioner, a taxpayer, and the manager of a small business can help the chamber grow into something greater.

Brice Strummer, Board Member 

Velodrome Coffee

Recently relocated to Marquette, Brice and his wife Teagan moved back home in the summer of 2017 after spending time in Green Bay, WI and Nashville, TN.  Teagan grew up in the Marquette area and when the time came to start their own business,  Brice and Teagen decided to set up in the best community they could think of – Marquette!  Along with founding Velodrome Coffee Company, Brice has worked for a number of other locally minded, independently owned businesses.  One of Brice’s biggest passions outside of coffee and biking is event planning.  In each of Brice’s former and current roles, he has found a way to build events that interest a wide range of individuals.  Being only 22 years of age, Brice brings a new and fresh viewpoint to business and community. Brice has also traveled much of the United States and Central America and carries a multicultural perspective into any project he is involved with.  

Our Staff

Jason Schneider, Executive Director

Marquette Chamber of Commerce

Jason is a social entrepreneur at heart. He moved to Marquette from California in 1996 to attend NMU Where he attained a degree in History and Economics. He has a strong back ground in business and local government. Always seeking to try new things, and challenge himself he has spent most of his professional life as an entrepreneur or consultant helping others achieve their visions. He has worked with over 500 business clients in Marquette, Australia, Vietnam and the Kingdom of Tonga. Outside of the business realm, his community involvement has led him to serve in a wide range of endeavors including serving as an elected city commissioner, the president of the Marquette Food Cooperative, and a founding board member to both the Dead River Roller Derby and the Upper Peninsula Climbers Coalition.

Nick Steffey, Assistant Director 

Marquette Chamber of Commerce

Nick Steffey grew up a troll, living out his childhood below the bridge in Grayling, MI. That was until he obtained his engineering degree and MBA at Michigan Tech and was introduced to the UP in all its glory. After graduation, he and his wife, Danielle, lived in a variety of places that never really felt like home. Because of this, they decided that one last move back to the UP was in order. Marquette quickly won them over and became their home.  When Nick is not at work helping the Marquette community thrive you will find him paddling the lake, snowshoeing the trails, or biking the city paths. Of course, all that calls for a refuel at one of Marquette’s many great restaurants or breweries.   Nick is passionate about providing tangible, useful opportunities for the businesses and people of Marquette. He loves to be at the challenging heart of change and improvement and hopes to work with you to push forward and create great things here in our little corner of the world.

Nicole Dewald, Administrative Assistant 

Marquette Chamber of Commerce

Nicole Dewald has lived in Marquette over 17 years with close community connections from the beginning.  From AmeriCorps volunteering, leading youth as an Educator for Marquette County to event management and community development her roots are collaborative based.  Her professional expertise lies in her ability to relate to organizational needs and find innovative connections to utilize community resources and/or human capital to fill the need and accelerate all involved.  She enjoys working with creative and passionate people towards a common goal, has experience with political advocacy and collaborative work utilizing technology and community connections.  Her education in organizational change and development comes from a Master’s of Science Degree in Training and Development and Performance Improvement and a Bachelor’s of Science in Technical Communications.  In her free time she enjoys outdoor recreation, gardening and spending time on her farm with family and animals.