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Harrisburg-area business owners swapping jobs for a day

Mike Wilson and H. Ralph Vartan - (Photo / Submitted)

Ever wonder what it’s like to wear a purple suit and market a growing winery/brewery? How about plan a major mixed-use construction project in the heart of Susquehanna Township?

Harrisburg-area business leaders H. Ralph Vartan and Michael Wilson — aka “Merlot Mike” — have been pondering those questions for months. Starting Monday, the Business Journal will follow the two friends around as they swap jobs for a day.

Vartan, the 36-year-old CEO of Susquehanna Township-based Vartan Group Inc. and one of Harrisburg’s largest private landholders, will don Wilson’s purple suit and play Merlot Mike for a day. Wilson, also 36, is a partner at The Vineyard and Brewery at Hershey in Londonderry Township.

As Merlot Mike, Vartan will meet with vineyard staff, help with wine tastings and come up with fun “What’s Popping” videos to promote weekend activities at the Dauphin County business. 

But that’s not all. Vartan will have to change suits to step into Wilson’s other job, as vice president of relationship management at Members 1st Federal Credit Union. He will split his time in both roles throughout the day.

On the flip side of the swap, which will take place on a different day, Wilson will be inspecting Vartan construction sites in Harrisburg, potentially meeting with tenants and joining Vartan staff as they prepare for a planning commission review of the company’s proposed Susquehanna Union Green project in Susquehanna Township.

Staff reporter Jason Scott will be shadowing the two men and documenting their experiences. Follow him on Twitter @JScottJournal. And follow Vartan and Wilson who will be taking over each other’s social media channels for the day. 

Twitter takeover

Goal

The Business Journal hopes this business swap may inspire others in Central Pennsylvania to do something similar in the future. You may think you know your friend’s business or what his or her day is like, but you might be surprised. 

Chances are good that trading jobs with a friend or business colleague will teach both participants something new. 

After the swap, Vartan and Wilson will be sharing their takeaways with the Business Journal.  

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