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Firm Thinking - Episode 10

Discussion with Lindsay Griffin - 3/31/21

Firm Thinking is a podcast created by the Law Firm of Hourigan Kluger and Quinn. Topics vary from legal matters to current events. Host Atty. Brian Stahl talks with Lindsay Griffin, Vice President and COO for the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Firm Thinking, Episode 10 - Lindsay.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Firm Thinking, Episode 10 - Lindsay.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Brian Stahl:
Hello and welcome to Firm Thinking, honored to present today's guests to you, it's Lindsay Griffin from the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce. Lindsay, welcome.

Linsay Griffin:
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me, Brian, I appreciate it. Excited to be here today to talk about the community and all the good things we're doing and also to just kind of highlight ways to get everyone engaged.

Brian Stahl:
Absolutely, and it really goes without saying that it's been an unprecedented year and we're here by Zoome, we've all learned how to adapt and participate and continue to interact with each other. But of a segment of our population, I can't imagine one that's been more difficult to to maintain that engagement than maybe your role of of engaging with our businesses and making sure that business and industry here in Wyoming Valley is still being promoted and supported in all the ways that that we need to have it supported here, especially during a pandemic. I invited you on and thank you very much for providing your time to us.

Brian Stahl:
I thought it would be helpful if you might just introduce some to some of our viewers who aren't familiar with the chamber and might not be familiar with you.

Brian Stahl:
Just give us a brief introduction of of the chamber, what it does, what its function is and and an introduction to your workplace.

Linsay Griffin:
Sure. Absolutely, and thank you again so much for having me on, and we know you've been such a great partner to us and helped us throughout the years with so many of our programs. So, as you said, I think 20, 20 was a pivotal year. I know use the word pivot so much and people are telling you don't use that this year because there was so much pivoting that happened. But our chamber certainly had to do that as well. So I am Lindsey Griffin. I am the executive vice president and CEO of the Greater Worcester Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Business and Industry. So so our amazing team really throughout the last year has really, I'd say, evolved more than ever. It's really, I think, working on the past few years of who we were and really what the chamber has become into what now it is and what our future looks like. So, you know, as a as a chamber of commerce for people that aren't really engaged with us or aren't very familiar with what we do, we are really that connecting resource and that engine that is driving the economy in this region. And that economy in turn, is what makes students want to stay here and people want to live here and businesses want to come here.

Linsay Griffin:
So it's all these different aspects put together. So it's having a healthy academic community, which we certainly have. We have a robust amount of colleges and universities and trade schools and all the different opportunities right here in our in our area, some amazing institutions that that our business community. So these are our neighbors and our friends that are small business owners, also large business owners. A lot of the new businesses that have come to the area, we look at our industrial parks and we are now the home to some amazing national brands like Chewey and Patagonia and Adidas and again, right here in our own backyard to our community aspect of it, we're also very focused on our nonprofits and making sure that they're healthy because they're delivering services to our community members in need and all the great resources that we have here that really allow our citizens to thrive. So our role as a chamber, I always say, is we're that connecting resource where that place that you should come when you're any of those entities I talked about, because we are aligned and able to get you to the resources that you need. We have an amazing amount of programs ourselves that are able to link those. But also we're a part of so many that we're able to build those all together into what what is the foundation of a healthy community.

Linsay Griffin:
And like I said, I think the past few years have really been aligning this great team that if anybody out there knows the wonderful team at the chamber, we have a wonderful group of people right now that is very focused on prior to the pandemic, aligning all those resources that I talked about, trying new innovative programs. We've brought a lot of really cool innovation to the area as far as the way that we deliver services and all the different ways that I just spoke of and all the different entities that make up our community. But also, I'd say last year we really almost a year or two this month was when things completely shifted and we said, hey, we really have to be the ones that are able to provide anything and everything to people in need right now, whether that was a business and you really didn't know what to do or how you were going to keep your doors open to a community member that was looking for resources in any sort of aspect during that time. So our role has shifted. Yet we've always still remained that constant of being, that connecting force right here in our in our community.

Brian Stahl:
And that's that's something that you mentioned Lindsay being that connecting flight after that was just really so impressive. I know that recently the chamber has gone through a rebranding and it's more than just a name change, right? I mean, it's more of a connecting resource here in the community. The prior name was the greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce. I believe you can correct me if I'm mistaken, in that now where the greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce. And to me, that that epitomizes, like I said, more than just a name change, but really serving is that connecting force in that rebranding effort share with our listeners what that entailed.

Brian Stahl:
Again, beyond just the name change and what expanded view, the chamber now views its role here in our communities.

Linsay Griffin:
Sure, so so, yeah, we did a name change at the end of twenty twenty, and really no coincidence, it's something that we were we were working on for quite some time. But one of the things that we did see through the pandemic was when it initially started, we said, OK, we're going to align with any and all organizations in this area that can offer resources, because even I know this for some people in my world, I'm so lucky to know about all the different. I know the other chambers. I know the different economic development organizations. I know our visitors bureau and all these different entities that were offering great resources. But there really we wanted to make it a common place that anyone and everyone could access this and become familiar with the different groups in this area that can help you. So so when we lined that up, you know, at the really start of the pandemic, we were able to kind of come together, 14 different entities throughout the area that were chambers of commerce and economic development agencies. Again, visitors bureaus were all able to come into one place. We created the regional resource website throughout covid. And really what that did was we saw us working together more than ever as a region, as NIPA, and the results were amazing.

Linsay Griffin:
You were able to link people with what they needed. We were able to start partnerships. We saw non-profits come together to form alliances, and it really started the synergy of something that we've all been working towards for the past couple of years. But for us, it was really that time to say we have members, you know, all over this area and we wanted to be represented. If we wanted to be inclusive, we wanted people to know that, you know, our team are really prided ourselves on all the different entities we have. And we'll talk about this in a little bit. I'm sure that we have a young professionals network. We have a diversity council, we have a government affairs council. We have a women's network. We have a nonprofit council that we just started. These organizations are open to anyone and everyone from this community. You do not have to be a chamber member. We we hope that you become engaged with us and you really get such a great interaction out of that that of course, you do. And you get a lot of great benefits for doing so. But we really wanted to make that inclusive outreach and say anyone from the greater Wyoming Valley region is welcome to join us in any capacity. So that name change is something.

Linsay Griffin:
And you can see the logo up in my corner there. We use the term elevator a lot and elevate to us is really essentially what we get the pleasure of doing each and every day. It's making this region stronger. It's elevating our people. It's elevating our businesses. It's elevating our next generation of leaders. So with that, we now are probably the greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce. And not only does it expand our territory, but again, I think really with the rebrand and you'll see us using that elevator a lot and more. So our branding in that aspect, even a little bit more than chamber, we are just that organization that, again, you can come to for any of those needs and resources. And we want your voice at the table. We want we've noticed that, that when we're inviting anyone and everyone to come to that table, not just certain individuals or certain parties, that's what we're seeing change. That's what we're seeing momentum. And that's what we're going to start to see these long term sustainable results and long after the pandemic. So the rebrand to us is a lot more just encompassing a lot of where we've been, where we're going. And I know who we're going to be. So really proud just to show that off as well.

Brian Stahl:
That's really great. And it really couldn't be more true. You guys definitely were at the forefront of gathering information. I know that it was quite a scramble with businesses and disruption and learning how to manage and try to survive in the environment with a pandemic. I know that the chamber definitely was one of the go to resources to be able to pull all that information together. What were you able to see firsthand in your role and maybe just touch on that first? What is your role in the chamber? You're the chief operating officer, correct?

Linsay Griffin:
Yes, sir, chief operating officer and executive vice president of the Chamber of Commerce in the Chamber of Business and Industry.

Brian Stahl:
And so what's what's a day in the life of Lindsey Griffin life?

Linsay Griffin:
Oh, my gosh. I always say that we are so, so incredibly lucky to do what we do because we're just able to know all these great different individuals and resources in this community. And really, our job on a daily is to just know what business needs are, what community needs are, create programing around that. Today, simultaneously, we have our Young Professionals Conference going on. It's our third one in conjunction with the United Way. So that's another thing that we really are aimed at, creating this great programing for all the different aspects of the organization that I just talked about. We are right now going to be launching the hospitality funding. The carriers are going to do the county that's going to run through our chamber starting March 15th. So we're going be able to help restaurants, hospitality industry get some some additional funding in the help that they need. We have our economic development programs there, ACT, which are still helping entrepreneurs and small businesses through a business lifecycle cycle, especially right now. That's more critical than ever. We have great programs right now aimed at students and making sure that we're we're getting our students really geared up for future workforce needs. And and we have some cool programs going on in that realm to make sure that they're engaged and really just creating partnerships between so many different organizations in this area. We have such great resources that, again, being that force that's able to to put those all into one place and offer it to the community and again, get our residents involved with that.

Linsay Griffin:
So a day in the life is really just getting to work with all these great different organizations, leading an amazing team. And right now, I mean, we're obviously still very much so in in covid recovery mode of making sure that we're getting our businesses that assistance, we're giving them visibility, we're linking them in any way that we can. But our focus goes way beyond that. We strategic plans right before the pandemic. So and in December of twenty nineteen, we launched our new plan. And, you know, it really is still lining up to exactly who we are. We we put a recovery plan in place, but it really lined up to exactly what we're looking at now is we're in recovery mode. So I think again, it's on a daily just determining what's needed in this community and all those different groups that I talk to you about and which I would encourage anyone and everyone that listens to this become engaged in some capacity. We are able to be the best we can when we know what the needs are. When people tell us, hey, this is focus, we need a program we need or initiative that needs help to start and get it off the ground, that is really the magic of what we get to do in each and every day is is be able to launch those things and again, put them into a package that everyone from this community is able to be accessible to.

Linsay Griffin:
And we're able to look at. I say right now, one of the most exciting things is we are looking at the future we know is we're starting to come out of this. Our community had really banded together in such a strong way that we will be able to still support our businesses. We were able to buy gift cards and do different promotions. And and like I just talked about with the funding, make sure that we're getting people any and all funding that's possible so that when this time is over, we're able to kind of look at what our new normal is. How is our how is how is everything reimagined? And how can we then take those changes and make this area the one that we all want it to be and we know it can be. And so much of that momentum started prior to the pandemic. We saw this area shifting in those ways. And that's my favorite part of my job. That is that, you know, some people say, oh, there's nothing to do here or there's there's challenges with with this community. And, you know, I think that day in the life of us and our team and if you kind of get to see that side of what really is coming into this area, what is here, all the great resources and people we have and all the great things going on mean before the pandemic, I could have been out ten nights a week and there's only seven.

Linsay Griffin:
There's great stuff happening. There's great people here doing great things. And I think that that's my favorite thing that I've learned from this, is that we just need those people to be we need more of those people to come in and say, OK, this is how we're going to make these changes and this is how we're going to all get involved and do it together, because that's what happens. It's that simple. There's really it's just getting involved and being part of that change is something that I get to do each and every day alongside of my team. So I'd say that my job, my my days are never the same. They're all of them are very, very different, but all in towards the same goal. And now, as I said, we're into more of that recovery mode and figuring out how we're going to kind of look at that new normal. That's where a lot of the time is focused, is making sure that we are keeping everything sustainable right now. We're keeping everybody as healthy as we can and then getting them into that. Phase of what everything is going to look like in the strongest way we can.

Brian Stahl:
Certainly, I do miss seeing you in person, I don't think there was an event pre pandemic that that I would go to that you weren't there. And your passion, certainly for the business community and for the Wyoming Valley as a whole is is unparalleled.

Brian Stahl:
So you are a great champion of the Wyoming Valley. You had mentioned a number of things there that the chamber is getting into, gearing up as we're trying to do the best we can to pull out of the pandemic. When we were preparing for today, when we were discussing for today, there were a couple of of key projects that struck me as being something that that even I was unaware of. I follow the chamber and I'm aware of the programs that you have, but I was particularly impressed with the breadth of the different areas that the chamber is looking to assist the community, both with professionals looking for a new career. And the connections you're making with CareerLink, with the Coding for Kids program that you're introducing to try to plan for new the new economy here in the Wyoming Valley as it pivots from our industrial past, mainly into technology and defense and and education and things. And then also launching Project Pivot, if you're able to touch on that a little bit. So what can we look forward to from here in twenty, twenty one and beyond?

Linsay Griffin:
Absolutely, and like I said on the chamber side, it's really going to be making sure our members are our nation strong, creating some great programing, continuing to do that virtually, we think, for the first half of the year. And then we're hopeful in person for that for the second half, a little bit of a hybrid going on. So we'll always have kind of options for both based on how comfortable people are. And I'd say that really and membership, by the way, keeps evolving. I think that's going to be really a whole evolution of how we're able to even further look at how we're able to really be the most effective organization as we can. Our team was definitely a little different in the region as far as we have still even encouraged the different membership options that are based on what you're looking for. It's not a one size fits all. You know, where do you fit into this and what's really the most helpful to you? So that that's going to continue to evolve and pivot, which I'm really excited about, that evolution of sort of how we've really grown. The chamber side is really exciting. And as, again, as we expand our territory, I think lots of exciting things will come from the Chamber of Commerce side of things, from our economic development arm, which is the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We call Worx their connect. And again, that's open to anyone in the region. So through that, we've really done some exciting things.

Linsay Griffin:
I mean, we we are able to connect itself is a really great system, connected, completely free. It is a resource for any and all businesses in this community to simply log in. You tell us how and what you need help with, and we're able to get you into this sort of database that we're able to connect you with all the great partners in this area that are so great at doing what they do. But we're able to track you, make sure that if you need help with financing or you need help with whatever it should be, marketing, branding, we're able to ensure that you go through the system. You're getting the help that you need and put to the right partners. So Connect is one of our our main systems. We launched a few years ago, and it still has its own programs involved with that, which is really exciting. It has a AH Spotlight program which we highlight local entrepreneurs throughout our community. We have our honor program, which is aimed at helping veterans that are looking to start up their own businesses. And I know, Brian, you've been a I guest speaker at that for us many times, and we appreciate that. You know, we have our intern program, which we're working on, sort of to rebrand the brand of right now and making sure that that's lined up. And that kind of coincides with some of the programs I'll speak about in a moment. And we also have a one on one series, which is our sort of educational webinars that we've been doing all throughout this year.

Linsay Griffin:
We did a lot of webinars. So all those different things are accessible right on our website into our also to mention our program, which we call PETCH, which is being remodeled right now for obviously our Zoome world. But it's where we get entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas, their concepts. We get them through a really great training process with Ben Franklin technology partners, and they're able to pitch to a roomful of investors. And that's been a very successful program for us to help to start some great startups in this community. But really on the economic development side as well, you know, we have two programs that have launched as of January one that will launch hopefully in the next month or so. But it's called Arnica Works Project. So overall, it encompasses really two different aspects. One is called Reimagining the Workforce, and that is our collaboration with CareerLink, so we really wanted to work strongly alongside of our local CareerLink, which is a wonderful resource, especially with our unemployment rate. And we know that Luzerne County has always been higher than our state average as well as national. So when the pandemic hit that really we saw that increase even higher, of course. So one of the initiatives through Reimagining the Workforce is essentially launching the new website of CareerLink, which is beautiful, a lot more accessible, has a lot of different listings on there.

Linsay Griffin:
But through that, we started a mobile tech service as well. So we're now able to reach people that are looking for jobs very easily. We used a local company who who has gone to the Kinect system called Mobility. They're located in the accelerator. So in Chris, this beautiful building on River Street, there is a great company that grew out of the innovation center and is now nationally dealing with people all over the country. And they do mobile text message marketing. So we are now able to, through this initiative, contact people directly through their cell phones, make sure that we're getting job opportunities out the quickest way possible and linking potential job seekers with these great opportunities in our area. So so that initiative launched in January of twenty twenty one, as well as coding the whole region. So coding the whole region is our program that is aimed at computer programing skills. And what we did was we offered it free to any and all students that are in sixth through 12th grade and we have wonderful curriculums in place. They were developed by a company called Code Alicia, and they are currently being taught right now to a little over one hundred students in our area, and they are being done by Penn State there. So what's really great is if you are a student and you are in six to 12, when you have sort of an interest in computer programing, we know that one of the craziest statistics of this program is when we were able to look at in demand careers in this area because we often hear our students say, you know, why would I stay here after college or why would I go to college here? What kind of jobs are in this community? And we all know that there's so many great jobs.

Linsay Griffin:
And one of the stats was that we found there was a need for three hundred and sixty students to come right out of school and get amazing jobs. These are great paying jobs as computer programmers. And I believe we had less than 12 that were qualified based on the ability that they were going through college and the curriculums that were offered that were able to fill these skill sets. So, again, this is a wonderful thing that you can learn right here in your community. You can go to a local college such as Penn State Wilkesboro, which they actually have this this major now as part of their curriculum. And you can come right out of college and have a great career here, right in northeastern Pennsylvania. So coating the whole region is one of our programs that we're piloting this. We're seeing how it works, how we're able to link this and again, feed right into our local school here so that we can get kids, you know, in demand these careers that we need and get them filled as soon as they're ready and fill some of these workforce needs that we're seeing all across the nation, frankly.

Linsay Griffin:
And we know that we're facing that here in our community. We have been for several years. But really through the pandemic, I think it's been an interesting time for people to reevaluate sort of the demand jobs and maybe pivot your career at this point to, you know, there are so many different ways that we can link you with new opportunities that have come online and in demand skill sets. So coating the whole region is going to be launching its second semester very shortly. So if any students or parents are listening and they're interested in that, again, completely free training that we offer, you sign up, you hop on our secure sessions that we have lined up again with our Penn State instructors, and you're able to learn either basic computer programing or if you have a little bit of knowledge. We also offer a secondary in that as well. So we are excited that that officially launched this year and we will be completed with our first round of the pilot by July of this year. So two exciting programs going on, a very different but again, very much engaged that these different workforce facets that we're facing and how we can really start to address these long term, not just put bandaids on the but start to look at these long term solutions, but making sure that we're getting the workforce that we need here in this community. And with that really that leads into our productivity, which we're hopeful that will be launching in about about one month or so.

Linsay Griffin:
But this was a project that we are aligning with two different partners. So one of them being the Institute of Public Policy and Economic Development, led by Terry Owens and LinkedIn, which is really cool. So basically what we're able to do is Terry and her fabulous work at the institute is able to tell us in real time with the high priority occupations are that we need immediately here in our community and from that. We are able to then use LinkedIn on a local level, so we are working with LinkedIn National, but we're able to get ten thousand users for free, anyone that's in need of a career. So if you are unemployed right now or maybe you are looking to shift your career, and this is mainly a recovery effort from the pandemic, because we know that certain careers right now really came offline when the pandemic hit and people were laid off or lost their jobs. This platform will allow you to, again, utilize a completely free you're able to see the in demand careers that we have locally. And you are able then to use one of the six thousand courses right. On LinkedIn. And we'll also have some local ones as well to upscale yourself very quickly in less than six weeks and get a job in a new field that we need here in our community, and that's hiring immediately.

Linsay Griffin:
So we're really, really excited about that program. It's the first time to have done something sort of in this capacity and especially in our area. They're looking to do these things all over the country. So, again, we'll be one of those pilot areas to do this.

Linsay Griffin:
And that portal that essentially will be built will be something that is accessible to anyone and everyone to register through. And again, it'll have all those national resources from LinkedIn, these different trainings that we have, which, like I said, there's over six thousand of them for whatever sort of career field you're looking for and where we need to upscale you. And we'll also have our local partners in there, too. So we're able to kind of link all of the local colleges, universities, any of the the different partners that could also help you to get a career in that field and help you get ready to get back into the workforce.

Brian Stahl:
Well, that's clearly exciting opportunities that are coming up and Lindsay, I have to admit to you, I'm exhausted listening to all those amazing opportunities, your energy.

Brian Stahl:
I don't know how you keep it up, but it really does take somebody like you. And with that tireless passion to continue to help elevate the valley, I know it's an amazing mission that the chamber has an amazing need here in our community as well to help continue to promote the resources we have.

Brian Stahl:
And that's great to match the demand and the needs right here in our community with resources from our community to be able to fill those needs. So I really appreciate you sharing a piece of your day with us and helping our listeners learn a little bit more about the chamber and about you and the resources that are available to our community. So I appreciate it and hope you have a great day. Lindsay.

Linsay Griffin:
All right, thank you so much and thank you for having me. And again, if anyone wants to connect with us right on our Web site, WyomingValleyChamber.org, we'd love to have anyone and everyone involved. And thank you again for having me today. I appreciate it.

Brian Stahl:
It's great to be well. And thank you for joining today's episode of Firm Thinking. We hope you found it to be informative and we look forward to speaking with you again on future episodes.

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