Message from the President | November 2019

President/CEO A.J. Baynes
President/CEO A.J. Baynes

It's Election Day.

If you haven't taken advantage of early voting, we encourage you to get to the polls today and cast your ballot. Several local and county races will be decided, including who will be the Erie County Executive for the next four years. Representing the largest suburb in Erie County and beyond, the Chamber felt it was important to inform voters of the issues in this race between incumbent Mark Poloncarz and challenger Lynne Dixon.

We invited both candidates to lay out their platforms to our Economic Development/Public Policy Council, and the Chamber was proud to be the sole sponsor of the WIVB-TV Erie County Executive Debate last month. We submitted questions and contributed to the pre/post-debate coverage to make sure the voice of the business community was heard.

The Event 2019 is in the books and will be remembered as a great night of celebrating business excellence. This year, our honorees were recognized for helping to fuel the Buffalo renaissance and #LetItShine. We had an impressive list: LocalBoys Restaurant Group for Hospitality; ECMC for Commitment to Excellence; West Herr Automotive Group for Stewardship; Buffalo Councilman Joel Feroleto and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery for Community Revitalization-Murals on Hertel; Donna DeCarolis, President of National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation for Woman of Distinction and Frey Electric Construction Company for Business of the Year.

More than 400 turned out for the awards ceremony and enjoyed networking with people from all sectors of the business community. Of course, we couldn’t pull off The Event without the generosity and talents of our members. Katherine Lucas and Jon Ferrari of Buffalo Video Production created the videos beautifully highlighting our honorees. You can watch them all on our YouTube page here. We also appreciate the photography skills of Marc Murphy Photography and Photos by Konstantino. Be sure the check out the great pictures from the event in this newsletter and the photos taken by the “Smile” photographer of The Buffalo News.

The Event also honored our Emerging Business Leaders Class of 2019. Thirty-six young professionals went through our nine-month EBL Leadership Program to help prepare themselves for the leadership roles of tomorrow. Check out our website here for more on the EBL program and watch our video to hear what the graduates have to say about their experience. This program continues to grow, and the Chamber is now accepting applications for the EBL Class of 2020. Anyone interested in developing their leadership skills can apply here. The deadline is December 20th for the program that begins in January of 2020.

The Chamber is lucky to have so many members who give back, and among our biggest supporters was Scott Dirmyer of Ultimate Event Professional DJ Services. For the first time this year, we asked Scott to play music at The Event, and he brought a lot of fun and energy to the program. We were devastated to learn that less than a week after our event, Scott died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Everyone who knew him knows how kind and generous he was, and we are heartbroken over his sudden passing. The Chamber also lost another dedicated member this fall. Suzie Solender, a fixture at Chamber events and a gentle soul died after a long illness. She and her husband Peter owned Solender Services, a grant writing business and were longtime investors at the Chamber.

As 2019 winds down, the Chamber is focused on the future. We have formed a Strategic Planning Committee to look at how we can continue to grow and serve our members over the next several years. Before the Chamber can look ahead, we need to know what members think of our current programs and what they want to see going forward. We sent out a quick survey to gather member input. Thank you to those who responded. If you haven’t yet taken the survey, you can find it here.

We are just a few weeks away from the holiday season, so we hope you join us for the last few events of the year. November is packed with plenty of opportunities to learn and network. Donna DeCarolis, our Woman of Distinction award winner at The Event, will be the speaker at our West Herr Driven to Success series tomorrow. There are only a few seats left, so register here. Register here for Lunch Mob on Friday at Glen Park Tavern, a Williamsville favorite. Also, do you want to learn how to make digital or TV advertising work for you? Register here for Open ProNet on Tuesday, November 12th with Spectrum Reach. The event also includes a newsroom tour and a “meet and greet” with Spectrum News talent. Business After Hours will be held on November 19th at Tompkins Bank of Castile in Williamsville. Register here to check out the bank’s first Erie County branch.

Let’s make the most of the waning weeks of 2019 and remember, my door is always open.