Page 12 - 2022 Chester County Guide & CCCBI Membership Directory
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 Chamber Leaders Reflect on 30-Year Anniversary
T he Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry (CCCBI) turns 30 in 2022. We asked past leaders of the Chamber and its Board of Directors to share their memories and weigh in
on what the Chamber has meant to businesses over the past three decades.
What do you remember about the early days of the Chamber?
In 1994, we had a very small
office in the insurance building in downtown West Chester. I think
it was at 17 East Gay Street. There were about four of us huddled together in this cramped-up space
and we were trying to find our way as this newly formed entity
was coming together. I was 25 years old at that time. I don’t think
a lot of the search committee members realized how young I was. The original executive director was Bob Thompson, who was a real mentor to me. He went on to become a State Senator, and he was a former County Commissioner. I still have a picture of us in my office. So he was there at the very early stages of putting the organization together, and then I came along.
How did you work to get the Chamber established among local businesses?
1994 was an interesting time in Pennsylvania because Tom
Ridge was our Governor and he was very focused on changing Pennsylvania’s ailing business climate. So in ’94, the Governor reached out to a number of chambers across the state and other business groups to lead an effort around workers’ comp reform.
It was a big issue because Pennsylvania was one of the worst
states in the country for its workers’ comp system and Gov. Ridge tackled it successfully. He also did a welfare reform bill and we got really focused on the early stages of getting investment for the life sciences industry in Pennsylvania. That really put Chester County on the map.
Back then, Pennsylvania was widely considered in the worst quartile when it came to our business climate. At one time, we were the 49th best state in which to own and operate a business. So that was one of the areas of focus: the business community was yearning for an organization to lead public policy and represent their interests and be a player in the state capital. To the credit of the Chamber and the County Commissioners, everybody was rowing in the right direction, and the proof is in what you see today in Chester County.
You were with the Chamber for a long time — until 2008. What were some of the big milestones of that tenure?
Being at the forefront of helping Vanguard expand here. Vanguard is the largest mutual fund company in the world and the mothership is here in Malvern. Other accomplishments were in the area of
leadership training and workforce development. We partnered with United Way and launched a very successful leadership training program and then we brought that down to the high school level. We still have our Youth Leadership Program today.
What are some significant emotional moments or memories that you associate with your time at the Chamber?
One of the emotional moments for me was getting the new headquarters done in 2000. Raising the money and then celebrating that accomplishment with a gala to bring together everybody to say, “We finally have a home where we can bring industry together and have a place for meetings.”
We took an old abandoned farm home and put in a million dollars of investment. The emotional moment was cutting the ribbon on this transformational opportunity for the Chamber.
I sometimes look back at when I took the job. The organization
was coming together, but we weren’t financially vibrant. In less
than a year’s time, I was able to turn the balance sheet around and grow the membership. I was so young that I didn’t have any fear of failure. The organization today, it’s come through things like a global pandemic that we never would have predicted. All through those events, the Chamber is alive and well and very vibrant and a very integral part of the Chester County community. The Chamber has accomplished its mission of being a leader.
When did you first become involved with the Chamber, and what made you want to take a more active role?
It seems to me it was 1993. As
I recall, there were four specific people that were the co-founders of the Chamber. I wasn’t one of the founders, but as they were
founding the organization, I remember [co-founder] Howard Stevens came to me saying, “We’re developing a new organization. It’s
going to be more business-oriented than the current chambers are around the county and it’s going to be more politically influential.” So immediately that had a major appeal to me. I came on board very early on. At the time, we didn’t have a home for the Chamber, so we met in Howard Stevens’ office in West Chester. I think it was called the Penn Mutual Insurance Building.
What do you remember most about your time serving on the Board, especially your time as Chair?
I think Bob Thompson, the first Executive Director, had just stepped down and he was going to run for State Senator. So we hired Rob Powelson, who was really quite young and very talented. He took his first marching orders and he ran with it. He was a terrific President of the organization.
The thing I remember most was searching for a home. We were
  10 Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry

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