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Merit Network Announces Regional Member Relations Managers

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Merit Network, Inc. announces today the transition to a new regional Member Relations model. The new model increases staff and expands Merit’s presence throughout Michigan, placing Member Relations Managers in six different geographic regions across the state.

Whereas Member Relations Managers previously focused their attention on Merit’s Membership by segment (K12, Library, Public University, Private College, Community College, Health Care, Non-profit, Government and Research), under the new model, Member Relations Managers will act as point of contact and facilitator for all Member types located in geographic regions.

The new Member Relations Regions are: Upper Peninsula, Northwest Lower Peninsula, Northeast Lower Peninsula, Central Lower Peninsula, Southern Lower Peninsula, Southeast Lower Peninsula, and Governing and National Members.

“I am excited to announce the new regional Member Relations structure,” says Elwood Downing, vice president of Member Relations, Communications and Services. “The geographic focus will bring Merit’s engagement and outreach closer to Merit Members and their communities everywhere in Michigan.”

Since February 2010, Merit has hired four new Member Relations Managers. Each of the new Member Relations Managers reside and will continue to work within the geographic communities they serve.

Many of the new Member Relations Managers are already familiar with Merit Network and what it means to be part of the Merit Community. Their experience and familiarity will be invaluable as the Merit Community continues to grow in the coming years with the REACH-3MC project build-out.

The current Member Relations staff will remain with Merit, transitioning from market segments to geographic regions.

Merit’s Director of Member Relations, Jason Russell, discusses the forthcoming restructure and his outlook for Merit’s outreach and engagement of their Membership moving forward:

Jason, as Director, how do you view the role of Member Relations?

Member Relations is responsible for the relationship with all of our Members and ensuring the best Member Experience. Member Relations is the primary conduit between Merit and our Members and the lead advocate for our Membership. We are responsible for actively engaging our Members to make sure that all of their needs are taken care of in order to best help them achieve their strategic mission.

Member Relations is also responsible for growing Merit’s Membership. Having Member Relations organized by region, we will be better positioned to leverage local relationships and opportunities to grow the Merit Member community.

What is a typical day in the life of a Member Relations Manager?

Each day in the life of a Member Relations Manager varies. Member Relations Managers may be out engaging with current or potential Members in person, on the phone, via video, or via email.
They may be leading projects internally across several groups at Merit, such as designing a wide area network (WAN) solution for a Member, identifying the possibility of moving a Member from leased circuits to fiber, or training a Member on a new hosted service they have purchased from Merit. They may be developing new avenues to grow or strengthen Merit’s Member community in a given region. They may also be leading Community Meetings, including facilitating and participating in Geographic Community Groups. Member Relations Managers are able to adapt to and take the lead on virtually any Member initiative that Merit is involved in.

I understand that there is a restructure taking place on Merit’s Member Relations Team? What is that restructure?

Merit’s Member Relations team is currently organized along market segments. Merit has Member Relations Managers that support Merit’s Governing Members, K-12 and Library Members, Higher Education Members (Private and Community Colleges), Non-profit, Health Care, Government and Research Members, and National Members.

By September 2011, Member Relations will be organized regionally. Those regions are:

  • Upper Peninsula
  • Northwest Michigan
  • Northeast Michigan
  • Central Michigan
  • Southern Michigan
  • Southeast Michigan
  • Governing Members and National Members

Merit will have Member Relations Managers based within each of the regions so that they are part of the local community that they serve.

Why is the restructure taking place?

Merit has had significant success with our geographic community efforts over the past several years. Additionally, we have seen that communities are doing more together than they have done in the past. By leveraging the local partnerships that are formed between higher education, libraries, K-12 schools, government, healthcare, and non-profits, a stronger community can be developed through focusing efforts across a geographic community rather than in individual market segments.

When will this restructure be complete?

The restructure has been in process since February 2010 with the hiring of Eric Grandstaff as Northwest Michigan Member Relations Manager. Since then, Merit has hired Jim Lundberg as the Upper Peninsula Member Relations Manager, Rob McSwain as the Northeast Michigan Member Relations Manager and Robin Reed as Central Michigan Member Relations Manager. I expect the restructure to be complete by September 2011. In the coming weeks, each of our Members will be contacted directly by their Member Relations Manager to introduce themselves, provide them with their contact information, and review any to-dos or projects that have been transitioned from their previous Member Relations Manager.

How will the restructure benefit Merit’s Membership?

Members will have a stronger relationship both with their Member Relations Manager and with other Member organizations in their communities. As Merit expands infrastructure into these communities through REACH-3MC, it will provide the mechanism to collaborate and regional staff will work to facilitate that collaboration and engagement. Member Relations Managers will be physically closer to their Members and will be able to work within their respective communities to leverage local partnerships to grow the Member Community.