Totem Pole Winery opens tasting room in Mechanicsburg

Totem Pole Winery recently celebrated a soft grand opening. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Totem Pole Winery recently celebrated a soft grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony with the Mechanicsburg Chamber of Commerce.

A disabled veteran-owned small business, the winery occupies 207 W. Main St., Mechanicsburg, the former home of Cristiano Winery.

The move by owners Joan and Don Hopler represents an expansion into a location where customers can sample Totem Pole’s assortment of red, white and fruit wines as well as sangrias, slushies and Cristiano wines, a release said. The tasting room will also offer small plates and appetizers.

The couple’s winery began with a wine-making kit, and over a decade later they are producing wine from grapes grown at their ranch in Carlisle. The business is a true family affair, as the wine labels are designed and drawn by their granddaughter, a young artist.

Each month, the Hoplers, members of the Susquehanna Wine Makers Guild, also donate a portion of their proceeds to a local charity. Totem Pole Winery is open 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Senate, gubernatorial race ‘Fireside Chats’ highlight PA Chamber Dinner

(Top) Political commentators Donna Brazile, former Democratic National Chair, and Chris Christie, former New Jersey Governor, engaged in a point-counterpoint moderated by ABC 27 News Anchor Dennis Owens. (Bottom Left) Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Josh Shapiro. (Bottom Right) Republican U.S. Senatorial candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz speaks with PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein. PHOTOS/PROVIDED
(Top) Political commentators Donna Brazile, former Democratic National Chair, and Chris Christie, former New Jersey Governor, engaged in a point-counterpoint moderated by ABC 27 News Anchor Dennis Owens. (Bottom Left) Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Josh Shapiro. (Bottom Right) Republican U.S. Senatorial candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz speaks with PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein. PHOTOS/PACHAMBER

Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial and senate races took center stage, literally, Monday night at the 38th Annual Pennsylvania Chamber Dinner, held at a packed and bipartisan Hershey Lodge.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Republican U.S. Senatorial candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz met with chamber president and CEO Luke Bernstein in separate “Fireside Chat”-style conversations of approximately 30 minutes each. The chamber invited Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano in the hope of hosting debates, but Oz and Shapiro were the only two candidates to accept.

“We’re honored and excited to provide an opportunity for these two candidates to answer some of the pressing questions that are on Pennsylvanians’ minds as they prepare to head to the polls on Tuesday, November 8,” Bernstein said. “Informing the electorate is a critical aspect of a well-functioning democracy, and the Pennsylvania Chamber has long used our Dinner as a fair and open forum for candidates from both parties to present their vision for the future of the Commonwealth.”

Prior to Oz and Shapiro appearing onstage, political commentators Donna Brazile, former Democratic National Chair, and Chris Christie, former New Jersey Governor, engaged in a point-counterpoint moderated by ABC 27 News Anchor Dennis Owens. Brazile and Christie talked about the key role Pennsylvania plays in national politics and offered their thoughts on the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential election.

Oz has based his candidacy in part on the claim that Fetterman, the Lt. Governor, is soft on crime. He returned to that theme Monday night in Hershey, telling his audience that Pennsylvania cities like Philadelphia have become unsafe and ridden with dangerous drugs, fentanyl among them.

With Fetterman absent from Monday’s debate, Oz said he would ask him, “Why does he seem to care more about the criminals than the innocent who are hurt?” Oz said Fetterman’s stance on crime in Pennsylvania’s communities has adversely affected law enforcement officials, signaling to them, Oz stated, “that they don’t really matter.”

Shapiro spoke with Bernstein about strengthening law enforcement, reducing taxes, and investing in Pennsylvania’s workforce. He described these initiatives as “hardly partisan” issues.

“I’m talking about hiring 2,000 more police officers across Pennsylvania, putting Vo-Tech into our high school classrooms so we can create a pipeline of workers for tomorrow, and making sure that we cut our business taxes and grow our economy,” Shapiro said. “These are hardly things that are partisan.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Republican U.S. Senatorial candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Brazile and Christie spoke to the importance of debates in a democracy and were critical of both Fetterman and Mastriano for not participating.

“Debates are very important because it’s an opportunity for us to exchange ideas, find out where the candidates stand, find out if there are some differences, perhaps some issues that they don’t agree on,” said Brazile. “But more importantly, I think it gives the voters and those who will be making the decisions on election day, the opportunity to get one last opportunity to see what the candidates are really made of.”

Christie agreed. “I think when the bright lights go on in a debate, one of two things happen. You either shine or you melt. It’s a really important thing… You see whether people are up to (the task) or not, and you have an opportunity to challenge them. And I think that both candidates who did not show up tonight made a mistake and a disservice to the people of the commonwealth.”

Is Harrisburg poised to become Pennsylvania’s next economic engine?

View of Harrisburg from Lemoyne Pennsylvania
View of Harrisburg from Lemoyne Pennsylvania

Results from a recently released Harrisburg Regional Economy Baseline Analysis found professional services among the area’s “key industry” with remarkable and unexpected similarities to larger urban centers like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Finance, insurance, real estate, and rental and leasing (FIRE) made up 23% of the economic output with professional and business services at 17% and education and health care making up 15% of the Harrisburg Capital Region’s (HCR) gross domestic product (GDP) the analysis reported.

The analysis found housing, business equity and inclusion are areas in which HCR can better promote and increase.

“The expectation is to drive growth. It will help us work smarter and better, that’s what data can do. It’s a tool to help drive your strategy and tactics,” said Ryan Unger, president and CEO of Harrisburg Regional Chamber and CREDC in Harrisburg, which released the analysis in August.

GDP, employment and business establishments were the three criteria used to measure the economies studied in the analysis.

Harrisburg economic development officials will use the data to create a strategic vision to help expand the region’s employment, economy, GDP and business establishments, according to Unger.

A surprise finding in the analysis was the Harrisburg region is more like big city urban centers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh where professional services are vital sectors, rather than closer neighbors like, Lancaster and York, where manufacturing is higher on the key industry list, Unger said.

The Harrisburg region and analysis includes communities in Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties.

“The growth since the Great Recession [2008] was smooth and more like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Lancaster and York [experienced] more volatility and more stops and starts,” said Naomi Young, the former director of the Center for Regional Analysis at the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County.

The strongest growth predicted for HCR is in professional and business services and health care, the report said. By 2028, the highest in demand positions are expected to be those for office and administration jobs, with transportation and materials moving in at second.

The first economic growth analysis in more than 20 years, the data was pulled from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Pennsylvania Center for Workforce Information and Analytics, and U.S. Census reports.

While Young has since moved to San Diego, California, she participated in the public release of the Harrisburg data analysis via Zoom on August 30, 2022.

“We often think of south central Pennsylvania as one monolith. And with the strong manufacturing base in Lancaster and York, and our strengths in business and health care, it makes sense to collaborate,” Unger said.

The manufacturing and labor sectors can strengthen and compliment the region’s jobs and talent pool moving forward, he explained.

In York and Lancaster the analysis said manufacturing, along with FIRE sectors and health care are its key regional income producers.

David N. Taylor, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association in Harrisburg, said a diverse economy in the mid-state region helps shore up the broader business base during economic downturns.

Taylor said it’s important to view – and respect – the region’s economy as an organism – or living entity – made up of and influenced by many factors.

“The best that policymakers and leaders can do is to shape an environment where investment is welcome, and the market can identify the potential opportunities – that’s how you realize the benefits,” Taylor said.

He said sectors like manufacturing and professional services can interface through a variety of job positions employment opportunities.

“Professional services positions are hired by manufacturers, like human resources, payroll and legal. Those are services manufacturing companies pay, and pay for, to serve their businesses,” he explained.

Unger said using the data to predict future economic trends in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh can help guide Harrisburg’s economic vision and strategic plans for the future – giving HCR a lens into its near future along the way.

“If we see things happening in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh we can adjust and that gives us a leg up” to adjust, make course changes and adapt, Unger said.

Other findings from the analysis included:

  • Private sector industries have driven HCR’s economic growth in recent years.
  • Harrisburg’s regional footprint has more transportation and warehousing than Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
  • The central Pennsylvania location differentiates it from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and increases its attractiveness to the logistics and transportation sectors and its neighbors in York and Lancaster.
  • Remote and telecommuting positions in professional services make Harrisburg and its suburbs attractive communities to attract and retain professional talent.
  • Telecommuting and job flexibility creates a broader geography from which to pull new employee talent beyond HCR’s borders.
  • Many professional and job positions are being filled by those outside the immediate HCR area, because of telecommuting opportunities.
  • State government and public sector activity has been on a slow, but steady declining factor contributing to Harrisburg’s GDP – private sector growth has taken up the slack.
  • Professional services and the health care sector have been two main economic engines recently in HCR, the report said.

“As we go forward we’ll use this to help us develop strategies, and businesses, and our partner (organizations) can use it. It will help us inform tactics going ahead,” Unger said.

Gross domestic product, or GDP, employment and establishments were the three criteria used to measure the economies in the analysis.

Housing equity and business diversity emerged as areas the chamber and CREDC will look to its partners to help grow, he said.

“Housing, equity and diversity are things we felt were important to better understand,” Unger said.

The analysis found only 23% of business enterprises were owned by non-whites, and that non-white owners are “under-represented” in its largest business sector: Professional services and business.

Non-white workers are “over-represented” in lower wage jobs in health care, accommodation and food services, the analysis said. With less than 1 in 5 businesses owned by non-whites, HCR faces challenges to create more inclusion, the report said.

The analysis used three criteria: Entry rate of establishments, labor force size and affordable housing as benchmarks for economic vitality.

Unger and his colleagues looked at the pandemic impact and how telecommuting can provide opportunities for business growth fresh talent can impact the region through 2028.

Indicators of economic vitality include the new entry rate of establishments and new business starts, trends in size and affordable housing trends.

Birth rates are an indicator of entrepreneurial impact as well as the human, social and financial capital needed to support growth, according to Young.

Business exit rates are low, and there have been a lower number of business starts “but fewer of them are dying,” she said.

Carlisle Area Chamber appoints new president and CEO


There’s a new leader at the Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce.

Nicole Deary, executive director of Leadership Cumberland for the last five years, will begin as president and CEO of the Chamber on Aug. 22. She has more than 18 years of fundraising, marketing and community leadership experience, including a stint as the Chamber’s events and marketing director.

Deary has also held positions with the Shippensburg University Foundation and Project SHARE.

“Nicole’s experience paired with her drive and creativity will set the Chamber up for success in the near and distant future,” Ashleigh Goss, chairperson of the Chamber’s board, said in a release. “She has fantastic ideas that will build upon the Chamber’s strong relationships to assist in the community’s growth as a whole.”

In addition, the Chamber announced that Leadership Cumberland will now be a joint endeavor of the Carlisle Area Chamber and the West Shore Chamber of Commerce.

“My plan is to increase the Chamber’s vision and work with our members to be the catalyst for growth in our business community and within Cumberland County,” Deary said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to bring Leadership Cumberland along with me as well as partner with the West Shore Chamber to continue to serve the county in developing effective leaders for the workplace and community.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Jubilee Day comes back to the streets of Mechanicsburg

Jubilee Day is returning to downtown Mechanicsburg.

The 92nd annual event will be held 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday. A release called it the largest, longest-running one-day street fair on the East Coast, drawing an estimated 70,000 visitors each year.

Approximately 300 businesses, community groups, food vendors, retailers, artists and craftsmen will be on hand for Jubilee Day, which is presented by the Mechanicsburg Chamber of Commerce.

The entertainment lineup will feature two stages with local and regional entertainment throughout the day. The Rolls Royce Museum will also have a display of antique automobiles.

“It’s been three years since we’ve made this event happen and we’re excited for it to be returning to downtown,” Jeff Palm, executive director of the Mechanicsburg Chamber, said in the release. “This year has been highly anticipated by many in the community and it gives us a chance to get back to doing things we were accustomed to. A few things have changed, but the event will have most of the things that we all look for at a street fair.”

Proceeds help local commerce throughout the year. The festival is the Chamber’s primary fundraiser and allows it to underwrite popular annual community events such as the Mechanicsburg Halloween Parade, Streets of Treats and the Community Tree Lighting.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer.

Lancaster Chamber hires first female president, CEO 

Heather Valudes. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Lancaster Chamber Vice President Heather Valudes will succeed Thomas Baldrige, the chamber’s president of more than 22 years, when he retires next month. 

The Lancaster Chamber Board of Directors announced on Wednesday that Valudes has been named the chamber’s next president and CEO. 

Valudes joined the chamber in 2011 as its advocacy director with a focus on government affairs and community impact. Prior to joining the chamber, she was the government affairs coordinator at the building industry association. 

The appointment follows a four-month nationwide search conducted by Waverly Partners, the chamber wrote in a release. The chamber also created an eight-person search committee to aid with the effort, which included Michelle Rondinelli, the chamber’s past chair and president of Kitchen Kettle Foods and J. Seroky, president of High Concrete and the chamber’s current chair. 

“The search committee, with the help of Waverly Partners, was extremely diligent over these past few months in the search for the new CEO of the Chamber,” said Rondinelli. “We are thrilled to have Heather as the selected candidate for this position. With her deep knowledge of chamber operations, her passion for pro-business advocacy and community impact and a clear vision for the future, Heather will be a true asset to the chamber as the organization moves forward.” 

Valudes graduated from West Chester University in 2007 with a degree in political science and holds a Master’s in public administration from West Chester University. She was also named one of the Central Penn Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 in 2019. 

“I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to lead the Lancaster Chamber,” said Valudes. “For 150 years, we have been supporting business and recognizing their role in cultivating a thriving community – and I am excited to honor that legacy as we look to the future. With the support of our members, our dedicated and thoughtful board and staff team, and collaborative community partners, the Lancaster Chamber will continue to be a convener, a champion for business, and an organization addressing the challenges and opportunities in our community.” 

Baldrige announced he would retire from the role in October. He said that Valudes deserves the role and that in her past ten years she has been exceptional. 

“…I am confident the best is yet to come as she transitions to leading the organization,” he said. “Heather’s appointment to this position, is made even more meaningful, when one recognizes that this is the first women president in our c150-year history. Her energy, strategic mindset and respect for Lancaster County business makes her the perfect choice to lead our vision of making Lancaster County a thriving community for all.” 

The announcement comes just a day after the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry announced its new president and CEO, Luke Bernstein, to succeed Gene Barr at the end of June. 


Historian Jon Meacham to speak at Lancaster Chamber dinner  


The Lancaster Chamber announced Tuesday that presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham will be the speaker at its annual dinner this summer. 

Calling Meacham “one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals” in a post on LinkedIn, the Chamber praised his depth of knowledge about politics, religion and current affairs and said Meacham “has the unique ability to bring historical context to the issues and events impacting our daily lives.” 

The 150th annual dinner will be held June 23 at the Lancaster County Convention Center. Tickets can be purchased online. 

Meacham is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the Society of American Historians. He chairs the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University and is a Distinguished Visiting Professor of History at The University of the South and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Vanderbilt University. 

He is the author of numerous books, including “His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope,” “America Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House” and “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power.” His current project is a biography of James and Dolley Madison. 

Takeaways from Lancaster’s State of the County 

StateoftheCounty_Photo- Vanessa Philbert, Ray D’Agostino, Sarah Lesser, Christine Sable, Tom Blefko, Matt Brennan and Scott Fiore respond to questions during The Lancaster Chamber’s State of the County event on March 24th. PHOTO/IOANNIS PASHAKIS

Workforce issues and the region’s tight real estate market led the conversation at The Lancaster Chamber’s annual State of the County event on Thursday. 

Area businesses leaders filled Lancaster’s Fulton Theater to hear the latest in staffing, finance, real estate and diversity, equity and inclusion from area experts. Thursday marked the event’s return to the Fulton after the pandemic forced it online for 2021. 

Chamber President and CEO, Tom Baldrige, welcomed the event’s attendees and announced the chamber’s new three-year strategic plan.  

Baldrige is set to retire from his role in July. The strategic plan will act as guidance for his successor, who will be hired to follow through with the strategy. 

The plan includes five strategic priorities including: public policy, workforce, business solutions, diversity, equity and inclusion and chamber excellence.  

Workforce has been the number one issue for the chamber’s membership, said Baldrige, who added that the chamber is currently putting together a study on the county’s workforce system and working with colleges and hosting mentorship programs to tackle the problem. 

Scott Fiore, president of TriStarr Staffing in Lancaster and one of seven guest speakers at the event, told employers to meet potential hires where they are and realize that for many smaller employers, it’s going to take effort to compete with larger companies utilizing AI to find staff. 

“You need to think about jobs ads as ads. You don’t want to think in the days of screening people out through your job ad. You want to bring in as many people as possible,” said Fiore, adding that employers need to challenge how they think about hiring. “If your job ad says you need five years of experience, challenge that.” 

Fiore asked the audience how they could offer more flexibility to employees. 

“Remote work is here to stay. If someone worked well during COVID. Why would you make them come back?” he asked. “Can you have someone work an hour or two in the morning and then come into the office for a little while? The more flexibility you have the better.” 

Business strategies will need to evolve to keep up with changing audiences, said Sarah Lesser, market president at Truist. 

Lesser said that the banking company employs three tactics to address its key stakeholders. For customers that means pursuing more opportunities to work with women and BIPOC owned businesses, working to increase capital to those communities. 

On the staffing end, Lesser said that Truist is looking to increase diversity within its hiring pool through mentorship and sponsorship.  

Across stakeholders, the company is looking at how it can address funding differently and is tracking and measuring how it can address racial inequities, said Lesser. 

Real Estate 

There continues to be a lack of rental and housing stock in the residential real estate market, but there are also a number of misconceptions when it comes to housing in Lancaster County, said Tom Blefko, director of operations at Berkshire Hathaway. 

“More and more people say that real estate prices have skyrocketed to the point that Lancaster County is no longer a bargain. In 2021 we were at a 1.8% rate of inventory,” he said.  

Blefko noted that the median sold price for residential housing in the county is $265,000—35% less than the country’s median sold price at $408,100. 

Stock is also low in the county in the commercial real estate space, said Christine Sable, owner and broker of record at Sable Commercial Realty. 

Sable said there is very high demand, extremely low inventory, prices have gone up and vacancy rates are low. 

“In terms of the impact on commercial buyers and tenants, you will see increases in lease rates and less negotiable terms,” she said. “There is less inventory and much more pressure.” 

As of this week, there were two industrial properties available for sale and 21 available for lease. There were seven office buildings for sale and 71 office spaces for lease. 

“There is very little new product in the pipeline,” she said. “It is tough for businesses to expand right now and it’s discouraging new businesses from coming to the area.” 

PA Chamber president and CEO Gene Barr announces retirement 


Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, announced Wednesday that he will retire from his decade-long role as leader of the statewide business advocacy group in the second quarter of 2022. 

Barr joined the PA Chamber in 2003 as vice president of government and public affairs before he was elected president in 2011.  

“For the past decade, I’ve been fortunate to not only lead this organization, but to work with its talented staff, dedicated member organizations and our pro-growth allies in state government to create a stronger, more vibrant Commonwealth,” said Barr. “Working together, we’ve enjoyed numerous successes and while more work needs to be done to improve Pennsylvania, I am confident in the chamber’s strong leadership and staff to pave the way forward for continued success.” 

Prior to joining the chamber, Barr worked in government affairs for Harrisburg law firm McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC and was executive director for the Associated Petroleum Industries of PA. 

The PA Chamber has established a search committee to find a replacement for Barr, who will remain with the chamber until his successor is appointed and will assist with the transition.  

Nicholas Bertram, chair of the PA Chamber and president of The Giant Co. will lead the committee, followed by Brion Lieberman, vice chair of the committee and chief human resources officer at Geisinger. 

“We are sincerely grateful to Gene for his decades of service and commitment to the Pennsylvania business community,” said Bertram. “While we are certainly going to miss Gene’s leadership, I’m excited about this opportunity, which comes at a pivotal time, to shape our future. We’ll be seeking someone who not only builds on Gene’s legacy, but an individual who is passionate about the Commonwealth and will boldly lead our business community to the next level.” 

Wolf executive order met with backlash by PA business community 

Gov. Tom Wolf’s recent executive order recommends that Pennsylvania’s government agencies consider imposing a minimum-wage requirement on businesses for employers to qualify for state aid, a move that would severely impact the state’s small businesses during a time of recovery, according to two state business associations. 

As part of the order signed into law on Thursday, for-profit businesses that receive assistance through the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) will have to offer paid sick leave, in addition to a previous executive order by Gov. Wolf that ordered the department to require a minimum wage equal to the state’s minimum wage for government employees. 

The order goes on to recommend that Pennsylvania’s other government agencies follow suit.  

Enforcing wage and benefit standards on Pennsylvania’s employers would have unintended consequences across the state’s business community, said Gene Barr, president and CEO of the PA Chamber. 

“Requiring strict wage and benefit standards for employers to qualify for state aid may not impact larger corporations but could pull critical lifelines from small businesses already struggling through pandemic and workforce crises,” said Barr. 

Greg Moreland, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) Pennsylvania, said that Wolf “missed the mark” when addressing the current workforce crisis and that “more government red tape is not the answer. 

“During the pandemic, wages have increased to historic levels, as evidenced by NFIB Research Center data stating compensation levels have risen to their highest mark in NFIB’s 48-year tracking,” said Moreland. “Yet, Governor Wolf continues to focus his time and attention on minimum wage increases. The market has responded, and businesses are adjusting.” 

Saddling Pennsylvania small businesses using the state’s economic development resources with a new paid leave mandate would also further the strain employers already are confronting through the state’s labor shortages, added Moreland. 

The Pennsylvania AFL—CIO, a federation of labor unions, announced on Thursday that it supported the package of regulations. 

“This pro-worker agenda is a great step forward for Pennsylvanians,” said Rick Bloomingdale, president of Pennsylvania AFL—CIO. 

These regulations will expose ‘bad actor’ employers who steal from workers and skirt the system by paying no fines and taxes,” said Frank Snyder, secretary-treasurer for the federation. “You have the right to fair treatment on the job, and no employer should get away with violating your rights. If they do the crime, they should do the time.” 

The order details a new publicly available list through the Department of Labor & Industry that would detail businesses that have violated labor laws, misclassified their workers, owe unemployment compensation back taxes and failed to carry workers’ compensation insurance. 

Barr referred to the list as a “public shaming of employers who violate labor laws.” He went on to say that policymakers should recognize that violations are often unintentional and eventually remedied. 

“Employment laws and regulations are notoriously complicated; such as similar federal and state laws that include subtle differences creating what’s known as the ‘compliance trap,'” said Barr. “The governor mentioned employers owing unemployment compensation back taxes, but some may not even be aware they owe, especially after the chaos of the last year and a half.” 

Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce to relocate headquarters this fall

The Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce plans to relocate to a new, larger office at 989 Quentin Road. PHOTO/PROVIDED

The Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce plans to relocate to a new, larger office at 989 Quentin Road, Lebanon in mid-October.

The chamber announced this month that it will be leaving its 604 Cumberland Street headquarters after 10 years.

The move comes at a time where the chamber has grown its programming and needs larger meeting room space, the chamber wrote in a press release. In a non-pandemic year, the chamber holds over 400 meetings and workshops on site annually.

“Our programming has evolved over the past five years to include more educational workshops, development programs, and roundtable discussions,” said Karen Groh, chamber president and CEO. “Our current meeting rooms are often at maximum capacity which means we have to turn away attendees.”

The new location includes an extra 1,500-square-feet of space at over 5,200-square-feet and nearly double the occupancy in the two meeting rooms on-site. The move was decided through a multi-year process which included a search committee of chamber members.

“Our 2022-25 Strategic Plan has a heavy emphasis on educational programming,” said Groh. “We are confident this move will increase our ability to provide more services and benefits to our large membership based in Lebanon County and surrounding communities.”

The chamber plans to hold an open house for the new location in November.

First in-person Harrisburg Regional Chamber event tackles workplace civility, kindness

Shola Richards spoke at The Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC’s annual VIBE event on Friday. PHOTO/IOANNIS PASHAKIS

The Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC’s first in-person event following quarantine centered on a message of workplace civility and creating a culture where people can come together.

Best-selling author and workplace civility expert Shola Richards spoke to an audience of midstate business and community leaders on translating a South African philosophy to the workplace during VIBE, the chamber’s largest event of the year.

Richards, author of Making Work Work and Go Together and creator of The Positivity Solution blog has been featured on the Today Show, CBS This Morning, Forbes, Black Enterprise and more for his work on workplace culture.

During his talk, Richards touched on the idea of Ubuntu, a South African phrase meaning “I am, because we are” and how business leaders can take that idea and use it to make kinder, more inclusive workplaces.

For Richards, Ubuntu can mean the difference between a leader that leads from a pedestal and a leader that leads by example.

“(My talk) is not about fluffiness for fluffiness sake– it’s about truly giving someone that demonstration of respect that allows them to feel heard and safe,” he said. “It’s not something to dismiss. These are real hardcore business strategies that can change how you work and lead.”

Applying the mentality of Ubuntu means asking three questions of yourself, according to Richards: Is it kind, is it true and is it necessary.

“If you do not have kindness and civility in our workplaces, we have to realize what it does for our customer service, what it does to people going on leave and what it means for people trying to collaborate together,” he said. “There are so many things that can go wrong if we don’t give attention to civility.”

Richards talk comes at the right time for midstate businesses as employees return back to work and employers look to create a teamwork oriented environment.

“It’s important at any time but especially now,” said Ryan Unger, the chamber’s president. “At this current climate we tend to be polarized and not necessarily create the condition or ecosystem to reach a consensus and partnership and we were happy to bring a speaker who could touch on that.”