Northwest Indiana in a community built on relationships, supported by a strong network of businesses which in turn rely on the continued support from those customers they serve. Perhaps no one knows this better than Nancy Simpson, who has served as Executive Director at Portage Chamber of Commerce since January of 2016.
Originally from Calumet City, Illinois, Simpson attended college at Illinois State University with a major in public relations and minor in Spanish.
After graduating in 1990, Simpson says that she slowly started moving towards Indiana.
“I had several different jobs at the time,” said Simpson. “Eventually I met my husband, Carl, in Griffith, Indiana.”
Oftentimes, certain years play pivotal roles in our lives. For Nancy Simpson, that year was 1997.
“We were married in 1997. We also bought a boat at that time, and it was that boat that brought us here to Portage,” said Nancy. “We docked our boat in the Portage Marina, so we learned a lot about the city and spent a lot of time here on the weekends enjoying our boat. Portage is such a great community that we decided to move here.”
They have upgraded several times over the years and currently own a 34 foot Four Winds, which they still dock at Portage Marina during the summer months. Nancy and her husband also have two daughters - Cierra, 17 and Savanna, 15.
“They were practically born on the water,” Simpson said with a laugh. They also have a dog, named Jazzie. “She’s a beagle/basset/lab. She looks like a short yellow lab and she sheds a lot!”
Nancy was happy to raise her daughters in the area and feels that Portage has a very good school system.
“Once my kids were born, I thought it would be a good idea to get to know more people here in Portage,” said Nancy. “We knew other boaters, but we wanted to meet other people too, so I joined the Portage YMCA to learn more about the community. My kids were Y rats, and grew up in the Y program. Eventually I started working at the Y.”
She is currently on the board of directors for the Portage YMCA.
“I worked at the YMCA for five years until I saw that an office manager position had become available at the Chamber of Commerce, so I left the YMCA in 2013. Then, in January of 2016, the position of executive director there at the Chamber became available, and I’ve worked in that position since that time,” said Simpson.
Simpson enjoys her position with the Chamber of Commerce because it gives her the opportunities to build and strengthen ties within the community.
“I enjoy getting the business community together,” said Simpson. “We are sustained by memberships, so we are always looking for ways to connect the business community here in Portage. We have large events such as our golf outing and our vendor shows, and we also have smaller events which we hold monthly like our 'Rise, Shine and Share' educational events and 'MidWeek Mingle,' which is more casual.”
When they’re not out on the water, the Simpsons like to travel and frequently take cruises.
“We have been on six already, we’re planning our seventh for spring break next year. We’ve been to the Caribbean and Mexico, and we love Sweden!”
With their strong family bond, shared love of being on the water, and passion for building relationships both at home and throughout the Portage area, one thing is abundantly clear - the Simpsons are in love with Portage.
“We’re here to stay,” said Nancy.