Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber aiming to elevate region

WILKES-BARRE — Lindsay Griffin, president/CEO of the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce, said elevating the greater Wyoming Valley is the core priority of the Chamber of Commerce.

“To us, elevating the Greater Wyoming Valley means elevating the businesses and organizations that call this region home, as well as the current and up and coming leaders who strive to make our area better, stronger and more equitable each day,” Griffin said. “As we move steadfast into 2022, we look to our mission, members, and the community as whole each day to ensure we are providing the resources, programs and initiatives that are needed for the economic growth and vitality of the Wyoming Valley.”

To achieve this, Griffin said the Chamber has developed programs and services to assist organizations of all types and sizes at any point in their growth life-cycle, and act as an advocate for the needs of the business community.

“We work to bring together and provide development opportunities for our area’s best and brightest — from the students and young professionals that will become our next visionary leaders, to the business leaders and professionals who work tirelessly to move our region forward,” Griffin said. “We have developed over 50 educational, networking and professional development events that are held each year and are open to our entire community.”

In 2019, Griffin said the Chamber created its 2020-2022 strategic plan. The goals aligned to connect, innovate and elevate this area.

“While we quickly pivoted to develop a new COVID-19 Recovery Plan for our organization and region in the spring of 2020, with a focus on responding, returning and re-imagining, our mission has always remained the same,” Griffin said. “We are committed to accelerating the economic engine of the region by fostering innovation, connecting our resources, and elevating and advocating for the community.”

Griffin said the Chamber’s vision never shifted, but the organization is now adapting to a post-COVID world — being the dynamic force in connecting the community, building economic innovation and elevating the quality of life in the region.

“We encourage and welcome any and all businesses, students and community members to join with us as we continue to re-imagine our future as we elevate the valley, the place we all call home, together,” she said.

Griffin said 2022 is the final year of the Chamber’s three-year strategic plan, and the focus is driving home innovation in four major focus areas, in alignment with the programs and initiatives that help us accomplish each one:

Goal No. 1:Visionary and inclusive leadership

Young Professionals Council: Griffin said the Council will plan and assist the young professionals of Greater Wyoming Valley to improve their career, develop their leadership abilities, build their professional network, and give back to the community.

“To date, we have more than 500 engaged council members, and have recently expanded this program to be a regional partnership program with our local chambers,” Griffin said.

Ambassadors Council: Works to increase the awareness of the Chamber and its services by engaging and welcoming new members and local companies and supporting events and program promotion on social media.

Wilkes-Barre Connect

Spotlight Program: Quarterly speaker series providing an opportunity for industry leaders and entrepreneurs in NEPA to meet, discuss, and identify potential partnerships.

“In 2021, we had 1,220 attendees/viewers for Wilkes-Barre Connect Spotlight events,” Griffin said.

Nonprofit Council: Brings together nonprofit leaders in the community to solve regional issues and provide resources to other nonprofits to help them better meet their mission in the area.

GOAL No. 2:Advocacy and Diversity

Connect Exclusive Program: The Connect Inclusive Program, developed in partnership with The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development and the Wilkes University Small Business Development Center, will address systemic and historical barriers to entrepreneurship and business growth that individuals from minority communities experience by providing accessible and inclusive resources for minority owned businesses that provides them with all stages of business education and technical resources, to start-up or continue to grow their business.

Women’s Council: Empowers female professionals in the Greater Wyoming Valley area, provides opportunities to share info on topics and issues of importance, develops networking and mentorship opportunities, and gives back to the local community.

Regional events: Griffin said the Chamber has partnered with regional chambers on a multitude of events in 2021, and plan to further our partnership by collaborating on all 2022 Young Professionals Council events, Government Affairs Council events like the Legislative Forum, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council Events and programs, and more networking and educational opportunities this year.

Government Affairs Council: Advocates for local businesses in legislation by reviewing legislation at the local, state, and national levels and recommending both policy and formal positions on these issues to the Chamber of Commerce Board. In 2022, the Chamber recently expanded this program to be a regional partnership program with local chambers.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council: Looks at the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber’s diversity initiatives, ensures inclusion in Chamber programs and policies, and works towards a more equitable future for all in the Wyoming Valley. The Chamber has also expanded this program to be a regional partnership program with local chambers.

Goal No. 3: Operational Excellence and Alignment

NEPA Works Project: The NEPA Works Project, launched in January 2021, is a 12-month pilot program designed to address specific skills gaps in an effort to increase opportunities for employees to find gainful employment and provide businesses with the opportunity to expand.

NEPA Works consists of two components: Re-imagining our Workforce — the launch of a technology-integrated communication strategy to promote the public workforce system; and Coding the Coal Region — a project to increase the computer programming skills in NEPA by providing students with access to free, online, instructor-led courses.

“While this program has officially ended, in 2022, we will be working towards the development of a long-term similar initiative with local partners who hope to continue this programming,” Griffin said.

Connect intake portal: The online intake form for prospects to indicate their business needs related to academic-industry partnerships, financing, internship programs, workforce, real estate location, and startup or business plan assistance.

PARKS portal: The PARKS program demonstrates the Chamber’s ability to create online portals where members can access on-demand content, whenever and wherever they need.

Project PIVOT: Project PIVOT is a unique, collaborative program created and launched by Wilkes Barre Connect — the entrepreneurial and economic development arm of the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce — that aims to provide accelerated workforce training and upskilling opportunities for workers aligning with the historic and seismic industry Shifts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Goal No. 4:Financial innovation & sustainability public funding programs

The Greater Wilkes-Barre Industrial Fund will identify and secure grant and loan programs for members through public funding strategies.

Ignite YP Giving Program: Ignite YP Giving is a new philanthropy program through the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce, The Luzerne Foundation, Leadership Northeast, and AllOne Charities, in partnership with the Chamber’s Young Professionals Network.

This program introduces young professionals in the Greater Wyoming Valley to opportunities to leave a lasting impact on their community through a local giving platform and helps cultivate the next generation of philanthropists.

Spark Wilkes-Barre Grant Program: The Spark Wilkes-Barre Grant Program was launched to generate economic development activity in the region by facilitating the growth of new companies and relocation of existing businesses to the City of Wilkes-Barre.

This program will provide financial incentives that correspond with the completion of free current and existing business development curriculum modules, provided by Wilkes-Barre Connect partners, pairing educationals with grant funding to help successfully launch businesses and ensure its sustainability pathway in a Wilkes-Barre City location.

Epilogue

“To say so much has changed would be a true understatement, but we proudly have and will continue to execute upon these pillars that have become the core of who we are,” Griffin said. “Through the challenges of the past two years, the plan has adapted, pivoted, and transformed.

Griffin said many goals have been accomplished and the resulting programs are now providing solutions to community and economic issues. Many continuing programs are being grown, cultivated, and strengthened to ensure a strong future for the place we now find ourselves in post-COVID.

She said May of 2022 will begin the new strategic planning process.

“We are excited to take on new challenges and to continue the momentum, initiatives, and innovation that have made great change and have made our commitment to this area stronger,” Griffin said. “While our strategic plan will in fact change as we update it for the coming years, our vision to be the dynamic moving force in connecting the community, building economic innovation and elevating the quality of life in the region will remain the same.”

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

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