Over a century ago, when the Pennsylvania Chamber was first founded, a rising star from the chamber world in Massachusetts, Daniel Casey, was recruited to crisscross the Commonwealth and impress upon business leaders the value of having their own local chamber of commerce.
Newspaper columns from that era detail Casey’s inspirational speeches – to a crowd gathered in Tyrone, PA, in November 1919, Casey beseeched them to “Look at any municipality the country over that is thriving and you will find that it is thriving because there is some dynamic power behind it. The Chamber of Commerce is that dynamic power.” The value in his words, as described in this article that highlighted Casey’s influence in the PA Chamber’s earlier years, was that he recognized the extent to which employers were interested in public policy, and its impact on economic growth.
Nearly 100 years later, the PA Chamber still understands the integral role local chambers play in promoting economic growth in the region they call home, and the fact that their real-world experiences help to craft the public policies that we advocate for each day in the halls of the state Capitol. The vast majority of the nearly 10,0000 members the PA Chamber represents are small business owners who belong to local chambers, and those chambers are acutely aware of the challenges they face operating in Pennsylvania. “What are you hearing from your members?” is an oft-repeated phrase at many of the meetings we have with them throughout the year, and at events where we present updates on the PA Chamber’s legislative priorities in Harrisburg.
We’re also proud to partner each June with the PA Association of Chamber Professionals to host Chamber Day at the State Capitol, where we welcome dozens of local chamber representatives to our office in Harrisburg for meetings and discussions with some of state government’s top policy leaders and experts. Of course, our local chamber partners don’t have just this one day a year to weigh in on the issues that matter to them the most – we keep the line of communication open to them 365 days a year so that they know they can always reach out, stay informed and rally alongside us when we need them to.
For example, we’ve relied heavily on local chambers this year on helping to get an important prescription drug bill through the legislature. Senate Bill 936 – which has been a leading PA Chamber priority this session – aims to implement a prescription drug formulary within Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system. We view this bill as a critical piece of the puzzle in addressing the state’s ongoing opioid and prescription drug abuse crisis as it relates to injured workers. In communications to state lawmakers, the PA Chamber listed the more than 70 local chambers across Pennsylvania that are joining us in support of the bill because it would help to mitigate an epidemic that has hit every corner of the state.
The term “all politics is local” is truly driven home when discussing the power of local chambers’ support for an initiative such as S.B. 936, because of the impact it has on lawmakers when they realize how the collective business community in their district has weighed in on the issue. It was the collective support of these local chambers, as well as medical, business and local government groups across the state that helped to get the bill to the governor’s desk; as of this writing, S.B. 936 awaits further action by Gov. Tom Wolf.
The PA Chamber wouldn’t be the influential policymaking organization it is today without the support of our local chamber partners. We remain committed to always building upon our working relationship as we advance the shared goal of a more competitive and economically vibrant Pennsylvania.