Marking The 1-Year Milestone

A letter from Tom Baldrige, President & CEO of the Lancaster Chamber

One year ago today, I wrote the first in what became a series of COVID-centered letters to Chamber Members and the wider community (you can read that first letter here).

The letter was written at a time when we knew little, when we were all still “open-for-business,” when the news cycle was in overtime and when the United States had a total of 1,000 known cases of coronavirus.  Our knowledge, our strategy and our hopes and fears were literally changing by the hour.  And no one –not a single person—could have imagined that we’d be “here” one year later.

In retrospect, the letter represents a stunning naivete to the journey that we’ve all been on this past year (as an example, it’s worth noting that we postponed our March Mixer to May 13!); in retrospect, the letter represents a child-like optimism to the real challenges ahead (“we will all have an extra reason to celebrate” at our May 21st Annual Dinner!); and, in retrospect, the letter lays bare my ignorance to the size and scope of the challenges we’d eventually face over these past 12 months.

Yet, for as naïve as the letter now reads, it also holds some truths that have held up quite well throughout the past year.

The letter advises us to navigate our journey ahead “through communication and facts, not fear and panic.” 

The letter implores all businesses and individuals to employ appropriate protocols to ensure the safety of their workforce and their customers.

And, the letter promotes the concept of “thinking local” with your busines and personal needs as a key activity toward ensuring we can all get through this together.

Well, Lancaster, here we are.  One year later.  And you’ve done it.

You’ve found ways to stay open, while keeping your workforce safe; you’ve innovated in unimaginable ways that will change the way we work forever; you’ve demonstrated your generosity, philanthropy and care for others beyond belief; and, you’ve embraced the concept of “Thinking Local,” while benefitting your fellow businesses.

Like the rest of the world, Lancaster County faced immense challenge this past year. But similar to other difficulties before, Lancaster County rose and met that challenge in hopes to conquer it. And, thanks to an amazing Chamber team I am grateful to have during this time, I am hopeful you think the Chamber also rose to the occasion.

In my letter one year ago, I pledged to you that the Chamber would do our best to keep you informed on the latest business-based COVID news, and our website continues to deliver on that pledge (www.lancasterchamber.com/coronavirus); in my letter one year ago, I committed to offering free webinars to all with the latest business-based COVID news, tips and strategies, and we continue to do that today, just hosting our 53rd COVID-specific webinar yesterday; in my letter, I noted Lancaster’s “unique ability to handle the circumstances, as was ultimately demonstrated by the RecoveryLancaster effort, a truly unique partnership between the Chamber, the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County and the County of Lancaster; and, in my letter one year ago, I noted that we will get through this together, and we have.

But –and isn’t there always a “but” in every piece of good news these days?!—we aren’t done yet.  Fact is, as excited as we all are about the dropping cases, Lancaster County is still experiencing an infection rate more than twice as much as last August. 

None of us should let down our guard or shirk our individual responsibilities.  All of us should do what we can to get the vaccine, while making sure all those in Lancaster have access to it.  And, let’s not forget the thousands of Lancastrians that are economically struggling.  Clearly work remains.

Yet, we are learning how to balance protocols with business; we are celebrating the launch of a Community Vaccination Center that is poised to deliver up to 6,000 vaccines per day (supplies willing!); and, we are still finding new and creative ways to collaborate, to help each other and to continue to work through this together.

There is no doubt that this past year has been the most challenging of my professional career. My guess is, the same applies to most of you, as well.  It has been tough on everyone for sure, yet I do want to give a special shout-out to all those front-line workers that kept our County moving forward.  We are forever in your debt.

One year ago, I ended my letter with a thought.  One year later, that thought still holds true:  “We will get through this together and we will return to normal soon.  In the meantime, let’s take care of ourselves and let’s help each other, just as Lancaster Countians always do!”

With hope for the future,

Tom Baldrige, President & CEO of the Lancaster Chamber

P.S. – If you’d like to hear more about the impact of COVID over this past year, coupled with the outlook for the future, please join us for our annual “State of the County” event, being held virtually on Monday, March 22 from 2:30 – 4:00.  More information and our speaker line-up can be found here.