Weekly Feature

2017-10-04 / Front Page

Chamber of Commerce seeks new president following Reicis departure

by ETHAN POWERS
Editor

The Clarence Chamber of Commerce will look to redefine itself following the abrupt departure of its president, Jan Reicis.

Reicis was hired in October 2015 and was tasked with expanding the reach of the chamber’s influence within the commercial sector of Clarence, firmly established by Judy Sirianni, longtime chamber president.

A member of the chamber’s board of directors, who spoke to The Clarence Bee on the condition of anonymity, indicated that Reicis’ departure was a mutual decision reached between him and the board following a decline in participation for some Chamber events.

The board member indicated that there had been several changes in staff related to a difference of opinion on the chamber’s trajectory.

Reicis told The Clarence Bee that he has no plans of “riding off into the sunset,” and that he has already been brought on as the human resources management program adviser for Trocaire College.

“It’s something I had pondered doing for the last five years,” Reicis said.

He rejected the idea that participation in select chamber events had suffered a decline in recent years.

“We had the second-largest participation for the awards dinner this past year and the all-time high for Women in Business,” Reicis said. “The Taste was hit with a weather problem. If we have a nice sunny day next year, it will grow as it has in previous years.”

Reicis noted that the chamber’s annual “Golf Classic” outing was the sole exception, seeming to have less attendance each year.

A search committee is being organized by the chamber’s Board of Directors to find a replacement for Reicis, according to board Chairman Jim Bennett.

“Some of our events have been incredibly successful. Our awards dinner and the Women in Business event have grown significantly,” Bennett said. “Other events, we are trying to increase attendance.”

Bennett, a senior partner at the law firm Bennett Schechter Arcuri & Will LLP, added that the chamber will look to create new benefits for chamber members that will enable a new restructuring going forward.

The chamber sponsors a host of networking events throughout the year, some of which are considered among the robust community events in the town. They include the chamber awards dinner, the Taste of Clarence, the Women in Business seminar, legislative breakfast and monthly morning and evening Business Blenders.

“I think Jim and the board are working on the process of figuring out what their structure is. Programs will continue to run, by and large,” Reicis said.

Many of the aforementioned events were begun by Sirianni, who served as president of the chamber from 2009 to 2015. Both the Women in Business seminar as well as the legislative breakfast were initiatives of Sirianni’s, the latter of which would allow small businesses the opportunity to communicate directly with politicians who could facilitate a more amicable business environment at the local level. She also began the theme concept at the annual awards dinner and grew the Taste of Clarence into one of the largest in Western New York.

“The purpose I tried to bring home was that of the ‘team.’ You know, let’s make this the best community ever,” Sirianni said of her time in the position.

Through Sirianni’s tenure, the chamber’s board of directors grew from seven members to 24.

“I was constantly on the phone talking with businesses, meeting with them. I made them understand the value of being a chamber member,” she added.

Carol Conwall held a secretarial role with the chamber for six years, though she left her position in April. Conwall said the chamber will have to “mend some fences” in the future.

“I hope they’re able to find somebody that is from Clarence, who cherishes Clarence,” she said. “They’ll have to earn the respect of those who have been loyal sponsors to the chamber and what the chamber represents. The position comes with a lot of work.”

Sirianni similarly believes that the chamber’s next president needs a multifaceted skill set that can offer an inclusive approach to local businesses.

“It can’t be a person who is simply business minded. You have to have someone that’s going to bring everyone in to work as a team,” she said. “We’re there to help the businesses grow. In this way, when they grow, we grow.”

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