YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Melissa Ames first joined the Better Business Bureau of Mahoning Valley more than 18 years ago, and it’s been “the only grown up job I’ve ever had,” she said.
Her role with the organization will expand as president of the board of directors starting Jan. 1, then as CEO when the current chief executive, Carol Potter, retires in May.
The BBB announced the news Dec. 9 at its annual meeting of accredited businesses at the Davis Education & Visitor Center at Fellows Riverside Gardens. Families of both Ames and Potter were on-hand for the passing of the torch.
Ames, who usually operates behind the scenes during the annual meeting, was front and center during the event, the theme for which was “We are wearing our heart on our sleeve.” The sentiment seemed appropriate as an emotional Ames shared her experience working with Potter.
“For the past 10 years, I have been lucky enough to have a true mentor and friend in Carol Potter,” Ames said. “She has helped bring to the forefront every day what we came to do. And it’s fulfilling the mission of the Better Business Bureau in the Mahoning Valley.”
Ames thanked Potter for her passion, drive and commitment to the BBB’s mission, its staff, its board and accredited businesses.
Oftentimes, the BBB is the only resource for consumers and residents to find trustworthy businesses in the Mahoning Valley for their needs, Ames said. That is what makes the work meaningful, she said.
“I am beyond blessed to do something that I love,” she said. “Every day is different – different challenges, different experiences. But in all of that, we get to make very meaningful impact to those within our community.”
Ames said 2022 will be an exciting year as the BBB is ready to come out of the pandemic and get back to working more closely with its accredited businesses.
In the months leading up to her retirement, Potter will work to ensure a seamless transition by continuing to mentor Ames and connecting her to the businesses and CEOs in the BBB network.
“As much as I’ve put BBB center in my thoughts, Melissa will continue to do that,” Potter said.
Potter thanked the board and accredited businesses for the opportunity to lead the BBB.
“It’s a position that has been so rewarding and I’ve treasured it more than anything else that I’ve done in my life,” she said. “When you care about an organization and you look into the future, you want to make sure that leadership continues to yield successes.”
Under Potter’s leadership, the BBB created the Torch Awards for Marketplace Trust, which honors local businesses, nonprofits and civic leaders. In so doing, she established the BBB TrustBuilders: Farmers National Bank, PNC, Premier Bank and Huntington Bank.
Potter also developed partnerships with Farmers Trust Co. and Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC to create the BBB Ethics & Integrity Scholarship Program. The program has awarded more than 35 $1,000 scholarships in seven years.
Jennifer Johnson, BBB board chairperson and area manager at Aqua Ohio, commended Potter for her leadership and welcomed Ames into her new role.
“To say our businesses are experiencing unprecedented times is certainly an understatement,” Johnson said, citing workforce shortages, supply chain delays and uncertain COVID-19 mandates.
During the pandemic, companies that went out of business or had to leave the BBB for financial reasons led to a “significant number” of accredited businesses leaving the organization, Potter allowed. Yet in 2021, the Mahoning Valley chapter enjoyed a 96% retention rate of its members.
In the Mahoning Valley, the business community exemplifies a “long-standing support of trust and ethics,” Potter said.
Pictured at top: In 2022, Melissa Ames will assume the role of BBB president in January, then will takeover as CEO in May with the retirement of Carol Potter.