Tom Baldrige, president and CEO of the Lancaster Chamber since January 2000, announced Wednesday he will retire in June 2022, completing 22 years in those roles.
Under Baldrige’s leadership, the 1,365-member chamber was named “Chamber of the Year” by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives twice and a finalist earlier this year.
The Lancaster resident, who turns 62 on Oct. 15, also was a leader of the Recovery Lancaster initiative, launched by the chamber and the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County in spring 2020 to help local employers rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, by dispersing $49 million in government funds and $6 million worth of personal protective equipment.
Among many other achievements, Baldrige also oversaw the move of the chamber’s office from Southern Market Center to East King Street, a focus on helping the county become "a model of prosperity for 21st century America," the start of a “Think Local” campaign to encourage businesses and consumers to seek products and services from county-based providers, and a new emphasis on connecting businesspeople with useful information and ideas.
The chamber has named a search committee to find Baldrige’s successor and hired a national executive search firm, Waverly Partners, to assist it.
Baldrige was hired by the chamber, succeeding Dan Witmer, after leading The Lancaster Alliance, a group of CEOs dedicated to improving Lancaster city, for more than six years. The hiring was a homecoming of sorts since, before his post at The Lancaster Alliance, Baldrige had spent five years at the chamber as executive vice president and director of government and public affairs.
“There is no doubt we have big shoes to fill,” said Michelle Rondinelli, president of tourist destination Kitchen Kettle, 2020 chamber chair and co-chair of the search committee, in a statement. “He’s made a tremendous impact in this community during his tenure and will continue to do so over the next nine months.”
J. Seroky, president of High Concrete, 2022 chamber chair and co-chair of the search committee, believes Baldrige’s efforts at the chamber will have long-term benefits for the county.
“His influence on Lancaster has been instrumental to the great prosperity our community has experienced over his 21-year tenure. His vision, service and representation of local businesses will enable our community to thrive for many years to come,” Seroky said in a statement.
Baldrige, in a letter announcing his retirement to chamber members and the community, said he’s been “overwhelmingly fortunate” to have had the opportunity to work with outstanding chamber staff, board members and volunteers, as well as “the best damned business community in the United States!”
The Ithaca College graduate indicated that he has plenty he still wants to accomplish in the months ahead, including the completion of a new three-year strategic plan, continued advocacy for issues of critical importance to the business community and the celebration of the chamber’s 150th anniversary in 2022.
Baldrige recalled how his former boss and mentor, Gov. Dick Thornburgh, would respond when he was asked how he would spend the last months of his second term in office in 1987 and whether he was glad to be "winding down" his service as governor.
Baldrige, who was a scheduling coordinator for the governor, remembered it this way: "Thornburgh, always quick with a comeback and always passionate about the work-at-hand, would answer, ‘I’ll be winding up, as there is much work to be done.’”
Baldrige continued, “Plenty on my plate, plenty to be grateful for and plenty appreciative of all the support and engagement you’ve provided me over these past two decades. Again, thank you for the honor of a lifetime. Onward!”