Karen Pollard, 2011 Outstanding Woman in Business

Economic Development Manager, City of Rochester
Photography by John Hession


As Rochester's economic development manager since 2003, Karen Pollard has been a driving force in helping to bring back some of the bloom to the Lilac City.

Pollard, who in her job has helped to attract and expand many businesses in the state's fourth-largest city, also has been instrumental in creating the Granite Ridge Industrial Zone business incubator and spearheaded its Main Street Community initiative.

Pollard supports her community of Rochester, serving as an active board member of the Rochester Rotary Club, and previously serving on the boards of the Swift Water Girl Scouts Council and the Rochester Opera House, among many others.

At the state level, Pollard has been appointed to several commissions by Gov. John Lynch.

For all her hard work, Pollard has been recognized by numerous agencies, including being named Special District Champion for 2009 by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

When Pollard isn't building Rochester's economic bridges, she said she enjoys cooking in what her family lovingly refers to as their "kitchen stadium," a la the hit cable cooking show, "Iron Chef."

One of her nominators, Richard Lundborn of Norway Plains Associates, said Pollard's "willingness to think outside the box … paired with her tenacity has created some really unique solutions for new and existing business."

Q. What made you choose your career?
A. This is really my second career. I had been a retail executive for many years, and did a lot of traveling. One day, when my son was 1 1/2 years old – he's now 18 – he asked my husband, "Can we go to the airport? I want to see Mommy."
I knew then I really needed a change. Eventually, I worked as marketing director for Warren County in New York. I really loved helping communities to become more vibrant and to open businesses. I came to Rochester in 2003 from Minnesota. Economic development isn't just about Rochester, but a much bigger picture.

Q. Did you have a mentor, formal or informal?
A. While attending the University of Oklahoma's Economic Development Institute, I was assigned a mentor, Michelle Keller. She was able to talk to me about the bigger picture of economic development. It hasn't been about smokestack-chasing and backroom deals for a long time.
Traditionally, it had been a men's field, but women have such an ability to communicate and think about community-building.

Q. How do you approach balance in your life?
A. It's a constant effort to do that. You really have to plan and look for opportunities to be together.

Q. What has been your biggest challenge on the road to achieving your success?
A. I've relocated long distances many times. When I came to New Hampshire from Minnesota, I was unknown and had to make new connections both at the local and state level.

Q. What advice would you give to young women just starting their careers?
A. Don't be afraid to ask questions or say what you think. Too many good ideas don't get voiced because a person is unsure or a little intimidated. 

Categories: Outstanding Women in Business