For New Museum Center Leadership, the Best Is Yet to Come
Jill Berkemeier, CFO, and Elizabeth Pierce, CEO, are leading Union Terminal through its upcoming renovation and planning for the sustained success of the building and Cincinnati Museum Center.
Photo by Wes Battoclette
Growing a company is a challenging task – but growing a landmark that participates in the community actively and works to educate an entire city on a regular basis is “truly a privilege,” say Elizabeth Pierce and Jill Berkemeier.
Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) has seen the sales tax increase pass by 62 percent of the vote and is taking the first steps towards restoring the building. With newly named CEO Elizabeth Pierce and CFO Jill Berkemeier, there are big things on the horizon for one of Cincinnati’s most iconic locales.
Pierce has been on the staff leadership team of the museum since fall of 2007 and has steadily acquired more responsibility within the growing organization until being named the COO and interim CEO in December 2014. She knows how important it is to continue to grow CMC and further increase community involvement – maintaining momentum through the impending renovation project of Union Terminal.
Since early 2008, CMC has seen the nation-wide controversy of the Bodies exhibition, the ground-up creation of the Freedom Sisters exhibit that now permanently resides in the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and the 75th anniversary celebration of Union Terminal. The impact of that lineup brought Cincinnatians to the museum in droves and inspired them to renew the 2009 operating levy for Union Terminal. “2008 was the perfect introduction here because there was always another big project, and that has continued to happen nonstop,” says Pierce.
She adds that, although 2008 was a whirlwind, renewing the operating support of Union Terminal in 2009 was a major triumph for the organization – one that has changed the perspective of the entire team for how they need to move forward. “One of the major things I’ve been a part of for the last several years is strategically and methodically looking through all the ways we can get the building restored, what that means and how we go about communicating to the public,” says Pierce. “At the same time, we have been very focused to establish ongoing financial sustainability, because we know we can only do the things we want to do from an exhibit standpoint or a programming standpoint if we have enough revenue or margin to fund those things for the community.”
With the addition of Berkemeier to the team, moving forward in a financially responsible and conservative manner will be a key focus. The CFO has a strong background in acquisitions and system implementations – and being a Cincinnati native, she knows how important it is for CMC to stand on its own two feet comfortably in the future. Her position as CFO at Global Novations, a local leader in diversity, inclusion and talent optimization, saw her working hard to procure a positive budgeting forecast for the company – one she certainly gained.
“We were a $10 million company when I started and by the time I left we were a $30 million company – this was a result of a combination of growth and acquisitions,” says Berkemeier. “All throughout my career, I’ve always been looking at how to improve the bottom line, how to get more out of our staff, how to make sure we’re offering the right benefits. I’ve worked mostly in service organization, so it’s always been about the people. That very much aligns with what the museum center does and what it stands for: giving back to the community. Finding ways to take the money and resources that we have, and leveraging that for optimal outcome, will be critical as we’re going through the renovation project.”
The looming renovation project will begin in the second quarter of 2016 and CMC is working to successfully craft a business plan for sustainability while still maintaining programming and community participation. “The plan as we go forward is to do the renovation of this building in a way that allows our community to understand more about the building, because we think it’s a great teaching opportunity,” says Pierce. “We want to be able to take our programs and our collections into the community as much as possible, so we’re looking for partners who may want to take pieces of our collection and put them on display in their offices, schools, in their lobbies – someplace where we can make sure CMC’s collection is continuing to be seen by the community.”
Berkemeier adds that another goal is to deliver more programs into classrooms and organizations at higher-grade levels, during after-school hours and through more partnerships. Both say it important to keep coming to Union Terminal this spring and summer to experience the Treasures of Our Military Past and Science of Sports exhibits.
The Cincinnati Museum Center is located at 1301 Western Avenue, Cincinnati OH, 45203. You can reach them at 513.287.7000, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their website at www.cincymuseum.org.