By Lucine Sihelnik, President & CEO, GRCA
New Year! New job? New outlook on life? Those all may ring true as we reach the end of our first month in 2024. For me as the new President and CEO of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA), there is no better way to accurately describe the opportunities that have set the tone for what is to come in the next 11 months. In 2006, I chose to make Greater Reading my home. For nearly 20 years, my commitment to support our business community, invest, create strong advocacy and policy has been a guiding purpose driving me toward community and economic development in the public and private sectors. So, a new outlook is not 100% accurate; it is more appropriate to say that each year strengthens our personal and professional pursuits of how we live, work, learn, play and grow. To understand what potential lies ahead let’s reflect on what’s already been accomplished by reviewing some facts from GRCA’s Impact Report.
- 655 of our members engaging our elected officials on state and federal levels as a series of one-on-one meet and greet sessions with the “new to Berks” legislators with advocacy members following redistricting.
- Have you heard about the Inner-City Passenger Rail returning to Greater Reading?! We aided in the successful submission of the Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority’s (SRPRA) project to the Federal Rail Administration Corridor ID Program.
- GRCA was a leading local chamber in the effort to extend and increase the state child and dependent care tax credit to help working families that will provide lasting gains for our children and society.
Economic & Workforce Development
- Launched a national talent attraction and retention campaign through the Meet Greater Reading brand to connect employers with prospective new Greater Reading residents.
- Collaborated with 75+ companies and partners across Industry Partnerships to make connections, identify common issues and offer resources.
- Hosted 70 personalized development trainings and industry roundtable discussions to 500+ attendees representing 110+ individual companies.
- In partnership with Neighborhood Housing Services, we launched a $430,000 small business loan fund and submitted over $1.4 million in grant applications to support local non-profits and development projects.
- $925,000 was submitted through the Small Business Credit Initiative (Pennsylvania Loan Catalyst Fund) on behalf of Berks County companies.
- Hosted the biannual Building Berks Awards & Expo, which featured 30 nominated projects and represented $148 million in investments, 1.2 million square-feet of development and 2,100 jobs!
- In partnership with the County of Berks Department of Agriculture, we launched an interactive, local food directory and map featuring over 230 producers and farmers on GrowTogetherBerks.com.
- Hosted over 150 economic development professionals at the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association (PEDA) Fall Conference in Downtown Reading.
Events, Communications & Marketing
- Engaged with 7,000+ community members across 150 events, forums, webinars and seminars.
- 184 members highlighted on average per month through GRCA marketing channels.
- Onboarded 118 New Members, hosted 24 Ribbon Cutting, provided 28 Membership Benefits refresher meetings and relaunched member favorites like the Ambassador Program, Coffee & Convos series for small business, and the Non-Profit Initiative.
We have so much momentum starting 2024. My goal is to make sure that people in Greater Reading and beyond know about GRCA, understand what we do, and want to be a part of creating a strong economic ecosystem! That means dynamic interconnected systems: customers, entrepreneurs, suppliers, distributors, competitors and our governmental agencies all working together for the best outcome. I want to thank all our existing members, investors, community partners and board members who work with our outstanding team! The strength and success of Greater Reading is in the capable hands of the transformative people and thought leaders that come together as GRCA. We are greater together. Now is the time to join us!