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Message from A.J. Baynes: February 2024

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A.J. Baynes, President & CEO

The Chamber hosted its annual meeting on February 2, and the turnout from our membership for this event was absolutely overwhelming. The room was at capacity with business, governmental, and philanthropic leaders from across Western New York as we swore in our new officers, rolled out our Economic Development / Public Policy agenda, and heard from Supervisor Brian Kulpa about his plans for the coming year. The Chamber remains engaged on all fronts with the business community, providing a multitude of services from professional development, networking, social media and brand development, advocacy, and employee benefits. To view the photos from the event, see here.

As the Chamber continues its march through 2024, we do so with Peter Petrella as our new Chairman. Pete has been actively involved in the Chamber for many years, most recently serving on our Executive Committee. As managing director at Talent Rise, an Aleron company, Pete has brought a unique perspective to our board, given his responsibilities outside Western New York in cities such as Chicago, Austin TX, Toronto, and Canada. I know the board is excited about the year ahead, and we appreciate Pete's willingness to serve as Chair.

I want to thank our outgoing Chairman, Mark Gaulin (PCI). Mark has been a tremendous advocate for the Chamber, and his leadership over the past three years has helped us navigate our way through the COVID-19 pandemic, increased our member participation, and helped lead the charge in updating our strategic plan. Mark will remain involved with our Chamber, and I appreciate his service to our board.

During the Annual Meeting, we unveiled our Public Policy agenda, which was developed by our Economic Development / Public Policy Council. The Council, led by Earl Wells from e3communications and Michael Pietkiewicz from Wendel, comprises a diverse group of leaders from various industries and backgrounds. We listen to our members about the critical issues and work throughout the year to address them. If you are not on the Council, we still encourage any member, regardless of the size of your issue, to contact us to see if we can offer a possible solution. We do our best to reach out to our membership to ensure it reflects your concerns.

We thank Supervisor Kulpa for presenting his State of the Town address to our members. Our membership spans over 75 zip codes throughout the Western New York region, and they remain interested in hearing about the plans for the Town of Amherst and how the town plays a role in the economic growth of our area.

This week, we are kicking off the Chamber's Emerging Business Leader's Leadership program with over 40 young professionals. The program is designed to help young professionals sharpen their skills, expand their networks, and deeply examine their workplace traits. Our EBLers are one of our organization's pillars, and the program's growth over the past three years has been incredible. At the end of January, we hosted our Winter ProMix, sponsored by UB School of Management and Spectrum Reach, which was well attended by young professionals who mixed and mingled at Sto Lat. Our Winter ProMix had been on a three-year pause during COVID-19, but we were thrilled with the incredible turnout.

On Tuesday, February 13, we have our second Lunch Mob of the year at RationAles. This event will surely be great, with an incredible turnout of over fifty people registered. There is still room; please register. Next month, we will have a joint Business After Hours with our community partners from the Town of Amherst, Horizon Corporations, Sweet Home Support Center, and SUNY Erie at the Northwest Amherst Community Center; for more information, please register <here>. Join us for the first round of March Madness Lunch Mob at The Irishmen, which will still be in a festive mood from St. Patrick's Day on Thursday, March 21. You can learn more by registering <here>.

Next month, the Chamber offices will be receiving a much-needed update. Construction is scheduled to begin on March 1 and should take several weeks to complete. We have arranged for all meetings at the Chamber to find a temporary home while we await the completion of our offices. This is very exciting, as we will expand our conference room to serve our membership better with more room and upgraded technology offerings. This displacement is temporary, and while the staff will be working remotely, we will have access to meeting rooms during this period if you need to meet in person. I appreciate everyone's understanding, but we are excited to return to a refreshed look!

Please remember, my door is always open.

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