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100 years old, the Harrisburg Chamber eyes its next century.


downtown. Te suburbs, as we understand them today, did not exist. It was in that environment that prominent businessman E.J. Stackpole set the wheels in motion to establish the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC, which this year celebrates its centennial. Declaring that the Board of Trade, the city’s previous


group for merchants, had outlived its usefulness, he recommended that the entity give way to a new organization possessing “wider powers” and a “broader scope of activity.” Stackpole seems to have gotten what he wanted. At its birth in 1914, the Chamber enlisted nearly 200 members, including newspapers, banks, printers, retailers and theaters, which agreed to pay dues set at $25 and up. Today, the Chamber has about 1,400 members and has greatly expanded its portfolio of services. “Helping both large and small businesses succeed are

always a key part of [what we do],” said David Black, president and CEO. But the group also provides aid in the form of

research, lobbying, education, networking, and advice on reducing business expenditures, to name a few. Collaboration is key to the success of the organization, according to Black. “We build bridges and coalitions to move things

forward,” he said. “Tat’s both a challenge and a blessing. We have a pretty good reputation when it comes to business issues and getting things done. We help businesses connect with each other and to government at all levels.”


After its founding, the Harrisburg Chamber leased office space in the Kunkel building downtown and named George B. Tripp, head of Harrisburg Light and Power Co., as its first president. Te Chamber faced its share of problems early on. In 1923, a fire destroyed nearly all files and records. Shortly thereafter, it faced the difficult challenge of helping midstate businesses cope with the Great Depression, which brought about economic devastation as well as many new programs, rules and regulations mandated by the Roosevelt administration. By the 1940s, things were looking up, and the Chamber moved into a new home at 114 Walnut St. in Harrisburg. During this era, it played a major

22 | THE BURG | 08.14

hundred years ago, the Harrisburg area was a completely different place. Streetcars ran the length and breadth of the city; shoppers crowded the streets

Patricia Bucek

part in persuading the federal government to build a Navy base in Hampden Township, which brought a plethora of jobs to the area. More projects followed during the next decades.

Some of the most notable included 1,200 new parking spaces on City Island, a four-lane highway from Baltimore to Harrisburg through York (I-83), construction of a $12-million, 10,000-foot runway at Olmsted Air Force Base in Middletown, and AMP’s purchase of a 42-acre site near Dauphin County Prison. In 1968, Gov. Raymond Shafer cut the ribbon to open commercial air service at Olmsted. A Chamber- led plan to locate the Penn State-Harrisburg campus on the grounds of the Air Force base and relocate Fruehauf Trailer Co. nearby was hailed as a successful conversion of a military base to civilian use. By 1972, the Chamber faced another natural disaster, losing its files once again, this time to Tropical Storm Agnes. While coping with the loss, it mounted citywide clean-up and revival efforts. Te Chamber expanded its scope even further as the

years passed and, in 1984, founded the Capital Region Economic Development Corp. (CREDC), which was among the early investors in the Hilton Harrisburg and Towers, erected in 1990. In the new millennium, major projects included the

purchase, remediation and transfer of ownership of the vacant Bethlehem Steel Pipe Mill in Steelton; the founding of Harrisburg University of Science and Technology; the formation of several Keystone Opportunity Zones, Keystone Innovation Zones and Enterprise Zones; the construction of Perry County’s Business Campus

One; and the organization’s Business Diversity Initiative, which began in 2004.

LOOKING AHEAD Black said the future looks bright for the organization and for the area in general. “Economically, we are a fairly strong region, so there is a fair amount of money that supports our organization,” he said. Adding to the optimism is the belief that the enormous financial problems facing Harrisburg may

David Black Linda Goldstein

be waning. Tat’s the opinion of Linda Goldstein, vice president and chief operating officer of CREDC, who foresees a better business environment in the city following the Harrisburg Strong Plan. “Mayor [Linda] Tompson was forced to focus on the city’s financial dilemma. Now that we’re more stable, Mayor [Eric] Papenfuse and City Council can focus on other initiatives that are key to the vitality of the city,” she said. Te Chamber, in fact, played a key role in Harrisburg’s

recovery process. Black sat on the state receiver’s Financial Recovery Advisory Committee and now sits on the Harrisburg Strong Task Force, which is drafting rules for the formation of a non-profit group that will administer the city’s infrastructure and economic development funds. In addition, CREDC has provided funds to hire Harrisburg’s new director of economic development. “We are committed to the long-term health and

growth of the city of Harrisburg through involvement in the Strong Plan and the financial support


Harrisburg’s community and economic development director,” said Black. Jack Sproch, CEO of Appalachian Brewing

Company and a long-time Chamber member, said he is very satisfied with the benefits provided by the organization. “Tey promote legislation that is favorable to the business and economic development of the area and provide demographics and numbers for those interested in starting a business here,” he said. CREDC has been instrumental in ABC’s expansion, said Sproch. “I spent money on accountants and a lot of my time meeting with various economic development people seeking favorable business development loans,” he said. “People assured me that if I located in the Cameron Corridor and the Enterprise Zone, it would be simple. Yet, I was unable to get any kind of state or tax benefits until I contacted CREDC.”

To learn more about the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC, visit or call 717-232-4099.

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