2 min read February 2022 — The Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2022. In an interview with Invest:, President Pam Henshall provided a picture of the current business landscape within Northeast Philadelphia and what lies ahead, placing a heavy emphasis on the potential of the international business community.
What makes this year so special for the chamber?
The irony is that the chamber was chartered right after the 1918 influenza pandemic and we’re now celebrating our 100th year anniversary following the COVID pandemic. To us, our survival through COVID and achieving our centennial is poetic. 100 years ago, our founders weren’t even five miles from Centre City, but they thought they were so far away that they had to start their own chamber. It’s telling that over the decades nothing has changed; everyone still cares about their own backyard. The players, people, demographics and region have changed, but our core mission never has. We’re as relevant as we were 100 years ago, and we still have five founding organizations engaged in the chamber.
What makes Greater Northeast Philadelphia an attractive prospect for business relocation or expansion?
Northeast Philadelphia has many opportunities for businesses looking to relocate. We still have real estate available for development, and we have a great diversity of companies. In addition, we have a large international community, creating an exciting environment for networking and business-to-business support systems. Regardless of whether the organization looking to expand into Northeast Philadelphia is a small business or a large corporation, there is something at every level to support their business needs.
How difficult was it for chambers to survive through the pandemic?
While chambers couldn’t participate in the first round of PPP, we could join in the second round in early 2021. Any chamber that stayed open, relevant, and active through the pandemic needs to be commended because we were not afforded the same safety net that most organizations had. The pivot we made was one of our most significant accomplishments at the chamber.
Where does membership and engagement at the chamber currently stand?
We did experience attrition through 2020 and 2021, and that was understandable. Some companies and businesses are no longer around or had to modify their operations in a pandemic world significantly. These decisions are the nature of survival. However, in the second half of 2021 and leading into 2022, we are gaining more interest and involvement from companies finding us and wanting to do business in Northeast Philadelphia. People are anxious to get together safely. We are bringing back our signature events for 2022 with the added twist of celebrating our 100th anniversary. The chamber’s centennial is generating a new level of excitement, and shaping this year to offer fantastic networking opportunities.
Has the business community returned to pre-pandemic strength?
No. We are not where we were. However, we are climbing, and I feel electric energy in our business community. Today, our businesses are smarter and leaner due to the past two years of learning to adjust to hybrid or virtual environments. The groundswell is coming back in 2022 for growth, but it will have a different face than it did in 2019. The development will be different because the pandemic has changed every single business and person. None of us are looking at things from the same lens as in 2019.
What is your five-year outlook for the Northeast Philadelphia business community?
One of the things I have heard repeatedly throughout the pandemic is, “We can’t plan for the future anymore. We used to have a five-year plan, but we can’t do that anymore. We can only plan for six months.” I never bought into this.
Our five-year plan is to be more engaged with the international communities and support them as their regional organization. We have upwards of 11 different ethnic and culturally focused communities in Northeast Philadelphia. We are helping these individuals and businesses network, connect with the city and be their extended arm of marketing support. We are their Northeast Philadelphia partner.
For more information, visit: http://www.nephilachamber.com/