Andrea Glass was named executive director of the Ephrata Area Chamber of Commerce nearly a year-and-a-half ago, but her path to the position began well in advance.
A Lancaster County resident since 2001, she had more than a decade of experience working with local nonprofits such as Historic Ephrata Cloister and Jump Street, an economic and educational nonprofit for the arts.
She has volunteered as a board member for the Ephrata Cloister Associates, the Ephrata Economic Development Corp. and the LGBT Center of Central Pennsylvania. She also has been a member of The Arch Art Collective in downtown Lancaster, and written for two publications, Locals Love Lancaster and Fig Lancaster.
Her academic training includes a doctoral degree from the American studies program at Penn State University; two master’s degrees: one in American history and museum studies from the University of Delaware and another in American studies from Penn State; and a bachelor’s degree from Penn State in art history and American studies.
For Glass, developing and celebrating community are not just a job, but a way of life. She talked with the Business Journal about her chamber experience thus far, and her outlook on women in leadership.
Why was this position a good fit for you?
Because Ephrata was just beginning to think strategically again about economic development efforts, branding and visibility, and tourism initiatives that would raise awareness about northern Lancaster County. My diverse experiences, unique perspective, and previous work locally with the Historic Ephrata Cloister allowed me to offer additional insights that were both local and regional.
What are your goals for Ephrata? What do you see as your accomplishments so far?
One of my main goals is to bring the Ephrata community together to create a shared vision for future economic-development and growth.
In Ephrata, we are blessed with so many wonderful organizations and volunteers. However, we need to continue to improve communication between these groups and share resources. We have seen how successful Ephrata can be when our groups work together for a common goal.
We were able to produce an Ephrata Area & Beyond Visitor Guide for the first time since 2011, produce a Christmas celebration that is unlike any other in our region, and provide the community with unique networking, educational and social opportunities. We want northern Lancaster County to feel connected and empowered and I think we have a great team in place right now that is working hard to do just that.
History, culture, and historic preservation have been key elements of your academic career. Many people equate chambers of commerce with business, but the role is deeper, especially in a community like Ephrata.
Can you speak to how your role touches on historic and cultural amenities?
I do not have a business degree nor did I ever think that I would be leading a chamber of commerce. And yet, my hope is that I have proven that economic-development and growth is about much more than just business. A high quality of life, unique social and cultural opportunities, and community engagement are important components of any revitalization effort.
The relationships we have built, and the lives that we have touched, are what means the most to me. Watching Christmas in Ephrata through the eyes of a child, seeing seniors admire Hometown Refurnishing’s restoration efforts at the Sprecher building, or interacting with visitors from around the globe at an event at the Historic Ephrata Cloister is what continues to motivate me. On a larger level, I also believe that our heritage and our social and cultural fabric is what will be key to facilitating future business development.
What have been the challenges as a woman leader in the workplace?
I knew that when I took the position that I would be leading efforts in a conservative region of Central Pennsylvania and that I would not fit the typical profile of a business leader in northern Lancaster County. From the beginning, I have been very transparent about who I am. I have never been afraid to have tough conversations, facilitate dialogue about diversity and inclusion, and challenge others if I believe they do not have the best interests of the community in mind.
Always being honest about my core beliefs and values has gone a long way in breaking down misconceptions and earning the respect of others. I am most proud to be the voice for those that feel they might otherwise have none. While there have been challenges along the way, we can break down those barriers if we find common ground and demonstrate our commitment to wanting what is best for the community.
What advice would you give young women about the path to career advancement?
First and foremost, believe in yourself and your abilities to make a difference. Do not let anyone or anything distract you from your values and core beliefs. That being said, we do not go on this journey alone. In my case, it has taken a team, of both strong men and women, to get me to where I am today. Look for resources, ask for help when you need it and become involved in community initiatives.
Every opportunity in my life has been the result of connections that I have made along this journey. The journey will also not be a straightforward one. You may have a destination in mind, but I promise the path to get there will be nothing like you originally anticipated.