Bentonville chamber leader Graham Cobb announces resignation

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 2,369 views 

The Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce announced Monday (Nov. 22) that president and CEO Graham Cobb is resigning, effective Dec. 31.

According to a news release, Monica Kumar, the chamber’s 2022 board president, will lead the process to identify Cobb’s replacement. She will work with Cobb and other senior chamber officials “to facilitate a thoughtful transition, continue to serve our members, and search for a new leader.”

The release said the chamber’s goal is to complete that process in the first quarter of 2022. COO Travis Stephens, executive vice president Ashley Wardlow and vice president of member engagement & events Sherry Rolsma will lead the chamber’s daily operations.

The release did not say what Cobb, a Little Rock native, is planning to do after leaving the chamber. In a telephone interview with the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, Cobb declined to discuss what kind of work he’ll be doing in 2022. In a statement provided by the chamber, Cobb did offer a hint about what’s next, mainly that he will remain in Northwest Arkansas.

“I’m deeply proud of what we’ve accomplished over the last four years at the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber,” Cobb said. “The vision of the organization, the program of work, and the professional staff we have assembled is precisely what this dynamic community needs.

“My mission has the whole of Arkansas as its purview. I’m excited to focus my energy on future endeavors that will help the state of Arkansas be the best it can be for business. This path will coalesce in the next few weeks, and the work will begin in earnest in 2022.

“I get to remain in Bentonville, a city that has been quick to find a foothold in my heart. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of building something truly special.”

Graham Cobb

In 2019 Cobb was named the Outstanding Chamber Executive by the Arkansas Economic Development and Chamber Executives Association. He served on the ACCE board of directors in 2020 and 2021.

“Graham has done an exemplary job in revitalizing the Chamber and building a foundation for a bright and innovative future,” Kumar said in a statement. “I know I can speak for all of us when I say that we wish him all the success in his future endeavors and that we are thrilled that he has chosen to remain in the region. I also want to highlight the incredible work of the entire Chamber team and underscore how appreciative we are of their dedicated service and leadership in the community. We would not be here without each of them. I am excited to work with the team and the Board as we move forward with considering the next phase of leadership.”

The Bentonville chamber named Cobb its top executive in October 2017. Before that, he was COO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce for four years.

In Monday’s news release, the chamber touted several successes since Cobb’s hiring, including:

  • Increasing its number of members as well as budgeted revenue each year.
  • Launching the #BecauseBentonville hashtag, which has over 35,000 uses on Instagram since 2018.
  • Being awarded 2019 Best in Show Award for Communication Excellence by The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) for its “Because Bentonville” Economic Development business attraction project.
  • In 2021 chamber had an average membership NPS of 9.3
  • Helping to pass the 2021 Bentonville City Bond Extension

The chamber engages approximately 6,500 registered attendees of 35 key events annually.