Cool Stuff About Business and Entertainment
in the Greater Harrisburg, PA Area.





What is the Chamber of Commerce?



What is the Susquehanna Alliance, and why is the Chamber a part of it?

What does the Chamber do?





Does the President really do anything,
or is she just a figurehead?








Why is Education part of the Chamber of Commerce?




What does the Community Affairs Director do?












When you say Membership Director, do you mean like a recruiter that goes out and gets new members?









How does the Chamber interact inGovernment Relations?






What do you mean by Communications?



MODE recently spent a day at the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce, talking to the staff, and learning about what the Chamber does for it’s members and the community. The following is an overview of what we discovered in a question and answer format.


The Capital Region Chamber of Commerce is an association of business men and women who have voluntarily given of their talents and fiscal resources to accomplish common community goals. Founded in 1886 as the "Board of Trade," the chamber works to make Central Pennsylvania a better place to work and live. The Chamber is a leader in the business community, and acts as an effective lobbying organization. It offers a way to increase networking opportunities, and to grow business referrals. It sponsors special events, business programs, seminars and workshops. It offers discounts to group health insurance, long distance, and much more. The Capital Region Chamber serves Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry counties, and is a member of the Susquehanna Alliance.

The Susquehanna Alliance was founded in 1994 as an umbrella organization representing the Regions associations, non-profits, and the business community. The founding members of the Susquehanna Alliance are the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce, the Capital Region Economic Development Corp. (CREDC), Leadership - Harrisburg Area, the Capital Area Minority Development Coalition, and the Venture Investment Forum. These organizations have pooled their resources and knowledge to better represent and serve their memberships, as well as the Susquehanna region. So, when you join the Chamber, you are actually becoming a part of the Alliance, and you can enjoy the benefits of all of the member organizations.

The Capital Region Chamber of Commerce serves its business members as an information resource, a networking tool, and a voice to the business community. The Chamber consists of several key departments, each of which manages separate programs and/or committees. These departments are: Administration, managed by Chamber President Barbara Groce; Education, managed by Leah Krnjaic; Community Affairs, currently managed by Barbara Groce and Leah Krnjaic; Membership, managed by Angela Kessler, Government Relations, managed by Amy Griffith; and Communications (which represents the entire Alliance effort), managed by Rachel Gersten. Each of these departments works closely with the others, creating an organization that offers opportunities and benefits to almost any type of business member.

Barbara Groce started working for the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce in 1967. She has worked through the ranks of Accounting Assistant, Office Manager, Vice President of Administration, and was appointed to Acting President in October of 1994. Her Presidency became official in February of 1995.

She does (and has done) a lot. As President and overseer of Administration, Barbara is responsible for carrying out the programs and policies of the Chamber as a whole. Working a regular day from 7:30 in the morning to (often) late evenings, she provides leadership and administers policies developed by the Board of Directors, and coordinates all the other functions and committees by implementing said programs and policies. She also delegates and measures the workload of the personnel, monitors committee activities and manages the Chamber’s Business Plan for Action. Committees that fall under Administration are the Board of Directors and Executive Committee, the Elections Committee, the Finance Committee, the Nominating Committee, and the Business Plan for Action Committee.

Barbara checks her e-mail and voice mail every morning, along with her "snail" or regular mail. A typical day includes several meetings both in and out of the office, as well as press conferences. She regularly takes work home with her, and can sometimes be found in the office on a Saturday. Shhh. She is very accessible, as Presidents go, and welcomes questions and comments from members and non-members alike. 

Six year veteran of the Chamber, Education Program Manager Leah Krnjaic would tell you education is paramount. Her goal is to help create a better student that will ultimately become a better worker. She administrates the Education Program for the Chamber which is primarily driven by the ACES Education Committee. ACES or Americans for Competitive Enterprise System, provides professional and educational programs for teachers, educational opportunities between businesses and students, serves as a referral agent for regional information on chamber program, and serves as a sponsoring organization for activities which promote positive change in the ability of individuals and businesses to work together. ACES provides seminars for teachers to learn what the business community today needs. They also bring guest speakers from the business community into the classroom. The Education Program promotes interaction between businesses, industry, government, and learning institutions, opening the lines of communication, and making a more desirable, skilled, and literate workforce. Leah sports pretty much the same type of daily routine as the President, answering mail, managing schedules, tons of meetings, as well as setting up and overseeing programs and special events related to her department.

Currently there is no official Community Affairs Director, so President Barbara Groce and Education Program Manager, Leah Krnjaic are managing the department. Community Affairs encourages the development and expansion of small business to and within the Capital region by providing information, education, technical resources, recognition and counseling to new and existing businesses. Community Affairs consists of the Small Business Council, the Small Business of the Year Selection Committee, the Middletown Region Council, the Training and Development Program Committee, the Military Liaison Committee, the Executive Woman’s Forum, the Athena Award Selection Committee, and the Community Visioning Council.

The Small Business Council designs and conducts programs to aid small business entrepreneurs in solving problems. They also provide a forum for those entrepreneurs to voice concerns and share information. The Small Business Council sponsors the Chamber’s Annual Small Business of the Year Award, and Wake Up to Small Business breakfasts. They also provide counseling to small businesses, develop an annual Small Business Summit, and much more. The Middletown Region Council promotes the commercial, industrial, civic and general interests of the Middletown region. The Training and Development Program Committee plans seminars and workshops to enhance the personal and professional development of Chamber members. The Military Liaison maintains a close working relationship with local military installations and commanders. The Executive Woman’s Forum recognizes, promotes, and enhances the professionalism of women executives through activities and meetings geared toward that goal. This committee carries out the Athena Award Program, which celebrates those who support the goals of professional women.

The Community Visioning Council develops, coordinates, and implements a community visioning process for the Capital Region to successfully position our community to meet the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow.

Angela Kessler, Membership Director, would tell you that getting new members is only a small part of what she does in a day. Angela directs the development, marketing, and implementation of all Chamber special events and projects, as well as drives for new members, and the management of the data and accounting related to membership. She also handles the Membership Committee, the Membership Benefits Committee, the Member to Member Discount Committee, the Ambassadors and Diplomats programs, The Capital Region Business Fair Committee, the (Business Fair) Judges Subcommittee, the (Business Fair) Logistics Subcommittee, the (Business Fair) Reservation Subcommittee, the (Business Fair) Sneak Preview Subcommittee, the (Business Fair) Advertising/Marketing Subcommittee, and the Golf Outing Committee.

The Membership Committee is responsible for implementing a marketing program to increase new members and retain existing members. The Membership Benefits Committee reviews proposals for membership benefits and makes recommendations to the Board. The Member to Member Discount Committee reviews discounts offered by members to be published to the general membership. The Ambassadors assist new members in becoming oriented and actively involved in the Chamber, while the Diplomats serve as a communications link between members and the Chamber’s Board and staff. The Capital Region Business Fair, and its subcommittees plan, coordinate, promote and implement all aspects of the Fair. Finally, the Golf Outing Committee plans and executes the Chamber’s annual golf outing and good fellowship picnic.

So ask Angela if she "just recruits new members" and hold on. Along with all of the above, Angela also manages the Chamber’s Business After Hours networking socials, as well as the Chamber Advantage program which offers substantial savings on insurance, long distance, and more to the Chamber’s members.

Amy Griffith, Director of Government Relations, probably would say her department acts as the voice of the Chamber and the Alliance at all levels of government on issues that impact the economic well-being of the Chamber’s members. Amy manages the Government Relations Committee, the Environmental Subcommittee, the General Business Legislation Subcommittee, the Governance Subcommittee, the Health Care Subcommittee, and the Tax Subcommittee. Ask her what she does all day? She starts by reading the paper. Actually she’s looking for information that may be of concern or possibly impact the members of the Chamber.

The Government Relations Committee monitors regional, state, and federal issues to assess their impact of the Capital Region business community. They then make recommendations to the Board on possible courses of action or on Chamber position. Each subcommittee covers its agenda in a similar fashion

Amy is currently working on the first annual Political Training Institute which will give attendees a first-hand look at the political process and the technical details of operating a political campaign.

Rachel Gersten, Director of Communications, coordinates the communications between the Chamber (and the Alliance) and its members, as well as the local community. Publicizing Chamber and Alliance events, Rachel prepares press releases, the monthly Alliance newsletter, the yearly annual report, any external advertising, flyers, and mailings, and then coordinates the printing of all of the above. In addition to this, Rachel attends every Chamber event (she’s the one with the camera), organizes the display of banners and billboards, and will very soon be in charge of the new Capital Region Internet Web Site. When asked what her days are like she gave an "evil eye" look, and said "They’re pretty busy." Believe it!

Finally, if you call or walk into the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce’s offices, you’ll most likely be greeted by Receptionist Susan Weidenhof. Don’t be fooled by this quiet phone answering, direction giving, mailer of information. Susan has the answers to your Chamber questions, and if she doesn’t, she can find out faster than anyone.

I was thoroughly impressed with the precision and harmony that hummed about this office. Everyone working hard, for a common goal. As a matter of fact, the day I visited the Chamber was new-member plaque mailing day. Everyone in the office gathered for lunch in their conference room to prepare Susquehanna Alliance plaques to be mailed to every new member. It was invigorating to see such teamwork.

If you’re not a member of the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce, you should at least look into what they may be able to do for your business. Starting at just $225 a year for a membership, you can be assured that you will enjoy benefits that far exceed that investment, especially if you take advantage of all the offerings the Chamber presents throughout the year.


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