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THE COMMUNITY, THE CHAMBER AND YOU
Partners Toward Prosperity
February 11, 2009

Hi, and welcome back to "At the Center."

Last February, The Lancaster Chamber launched a new mission statement --To build Lancaster County into a model of prosperity for 21st Century America.

Today, twelve short months but an economic lifetime later, the mission is as relevant as ever --but, perhaps, more relative as well!

While a stereo-typical Chamber response to anything is through the lens of optimism, we can't kid ourselves about the state of the national economy.

We can, however, take some comfort in the fact that Lancaster is better positioned than most communities; that Lancaster has a history of weathering these storms with more resilience than most; and that Lancaster has received national recognition from Forbes, Kiplinger and Farmers Insurance Group for its ability to withstand tough economic times --in fact, we were the only community in the country that made all three lists!

In some ways, we are a community that simply refuses to participate in the economic slowdown.  We don't have to wait until it gets better, because we know for certain it will.  And we know it will get better here quicker than most places.

But, for now, times are tough.  You all have to work a little harder for the business you get; most of you are looking a little harder at ways to cut expense; and many of you have hit the pause button on some planned business growth.

So while The Chamber's lofty mission appropriately sets our sites on a prosperous future for all Lancastrians, the fact is today we have to be there for you in the here and now so that we can ensure that bright future for everyone when times are good.

In that regard, we have repackaged our products and services for the here and now, while never losing site of our commitment to become a model of prosperity for 21st Century America.

For starters, we have added new features to our website designed to help you get a leg up on business contacts, best practices and information sharing.  Check it out at www.lancasterchamber.com.  More specifically, we have created a page providing for member-to-member request for proposals; we have created a business calendar, designed to ensure you can take full advantage of the programs that are going on throughout our community; and we have created some on-line communities, geared to specific niche groups within The Chamber membership.  

Secondly, please make sure you avail yourselves to the value-added products offered by The Chamber.  In advance of electric deregulation, we are now offering an electric utility program; to help you cope with natural gas energy costs, we have a natural gas savings program; and we continue to offer a healthcare plan and workers compensation, business insurance and employee screening programs --all designed to save you money.

Third, take a fresh look at how our program offerings can provide value and savings to your company.  From top-shelf, virtual seminars that provide the latest on business practices delivered straight to your desk-top for less, to our new value pricing options on group and advanced sales coupled with our condensed, less-costly seminars aimed to provide real take-home value.

Fourth, let's not forget to stay in touch.  From the federal "card check" legislation and the challenges with the state budget to your more immediate needs for business survival, it is imperative that we all work together to assure a positive business climate.  We need your voice to hear your voice in communicating the needs of business.  And remember, there is no better way to both stay in touch and spread your business contacts than by attending our monthly mixers --putting more than 200 business contacts at your disposal.

And, lastly, let's all make a consorted attempt to buy local.  If you need a business service --from office products to marketing help-- how about making it a priority to check out the local market first?  The on-line Chamber directory is a great place to start and, as I mentioned, our new online RFP section makes it even easier.

Lancaster County has a history of resiliency --and there is strong reason to believe that we will prove that true once again.  But the more we can work together to get through it, the better off we will all be.  In that regard, The Chamber pledges to do its part in being your business partner and helping all of you weather current challenges.

If we can weather it all now together, we will all be better off in the future as we continue to work toward building Lancaster County into a model of prosperity for 21st Century America.

Thomas T. Baldrige, President
Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry