Jun. 11—WILKES-BARRE — In announcing his plan to retire at the end of the year, Wico van Genderen, president and CEO of the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday he will truly miss the job, but he feels honored and humbled to have served a great community.
"And I could not be more proud of Lindsay Griffin and the Chamber team and their ability to take the Chamber, our businesses and our community to a whole new level," Van Genderen said.
At its meeting Thursday, the Greater Wilkes Barre Chamber of Business & Industry and Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce announced that Van Genderen will retire at the end of 2021, and Griffin, the current executive vice president and chief operating officer, will be named the new president/CEO, beginning Jan. 1, 2022.
"I wanted to finish my more than 30-year corporate career by giving back to a community and to make a difference outside of my business career," Van Genderen said. "I saw the Chamber position to do just that, both as a thank you to my mentor — my father-in-law, who was born and raised in Wilkes Barre — and to use my experience to help out the Chamber and Community."
Van Genderen said a key mission of any CEO is to be a good steward and leave an organization better than when you arrive.
"And while I think the business fundamentals in the financials, operations and Chamber mission are all there, the most important thing is in organization and that the true legacy is in the team you build and the leadership you inspire," he said. "I feel very much self-actualized that I can go into retirement knowing that Lindsay, the team, our stakeholders and our community are going to build from the foundation we built together and more importantly — make it better as we re-imagine the Wyoming Valley's future together."
Van Genderen said while he still be around for six more months, his biggest accomplishment has been fulfilled in Lindsay and the team, who he will watch with pride from his retirement as they build a stronger Chamber, attract and retain more businesses to the region, create family sustaining jobs and make the community a great place to work and live in.
"While there are challenges ahead, unlike those challenges we were confronted with in the past, we are heading into them with a position of strength and some good tailwinds," he said.
Van Genderen joined the Chamber in 2014, when the organization conducted a nationwide search to bring in a leader to transform the Chamber and help revitalize the Wyoming Valley.
He brought with him 30 years of corporate experience leading global marketing and product management and North American and Asia Pacific operations for Diebold, IBM and Interbold.
During his tenure at the Chamber, Van Genderen led the effort to revitalize and re-brand the Chamber, focusing on operational, financial and organizational excellence with a focus on retention and attraction of businesses, workforce and economic impact.
"After a 30-year career in corporate America, I wanted to leverage my experiences to give back to a community and found a great welcoming in the Wyoming Valley — a place my wife's family called home," Van Genderen said. "The mission of any CEO is to not only leave an organization better than when begun, but to have built a leadership and stakeholder team alongside it that can drive it, make it sustainable, and build it even better. I truly look forward to watching a re-imagined Wyoming Valley unfold with pride in my retirement."
Griffin joined the Chamber in 2015 and has moved up in the Chamber in leadership roles, leading to her current leadership position as EVP & COO. She has been instrumental in the Chamber re-brand and focused on building its Young Professionals, Women's Network, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Councils and in the regionalization of its economic development and business advocacy initiatives.
Moving into the president/CEO role, Griffin will be the first woman and young professional in the organization's history to lead the Chamber.
"I am honored to be selected by the board to replace Wico in January upon his retirement," Griffin said. "It is with great gratitude, passion and commitment that I step into this role of leadership in our community."
Griffin said it truly is an incredible opportunity to take this position at an organization with such a strong legacy dating back to 1884 when the Chamber was formed.
"Over the past few years under Wico's leadership, we have revitalized the Chamber and leveraged the unique qualities of the Wyoming Valley, while building an outstanding team to continue the growth and innovation needed for the future of our area," Griffin said. "I am impassioned each and every day by our mission and the businesses, students, entrepreneurs, non-profits, and community members that I have the great privilege of working alongside."
Griffin said she is excited to build upon the strong foundation and economic excellence to drive to an even brighter and re-imagined Chamber and Wyoming Valley in the future.
Larry Newman, executive director at the Diamond City Partnership, has worked closely with the Chamber over the years.
"I've really enjoyed the opportunity to work with Wico during the past seven years," Newman said. "Under his leadership, the Chamber has been a superb partner to DCP, and he has always been there to help us advance Wilkes-Barre's downtown revitalization efforts."
Newman said when Van Genderen retires, he will miss his friendship, his positivity, his energy and his vision in ensuring that the Chamber evolves to effectively address the emerging needs of Wyoming Valley's business community.
"However, in Lindsay, Wico has an incredibly worthy successor," Newman said. "I'm so pleased for her — she has earned this new role through her hard work, creativity, and leadership at the Chamber during the past five years. She will do a great job, and I look forward to working with her in her new role."
Newman said this succession plan — a hand-off from one generation of leader to another — is good news both for the Chamber and for the community it serves.
Chamber Board President Scott Lynett said under his leadership, Van Genderen has transformed the Chamber by building upon a mission of economic impact, social diversity, and community value to the region.
"Along with the Chamber team and regional coalition he led, he has helped attract and retain businesses, created an entrepreneurial ecosystem with the colleges and businesses and helped retain and attract jobs to the valley," Lynett said. "His work at the Chamber has made it an economic center of excellence for the region and I believe his legacy will continue on seamlessly as the Board also announces that we will elevate Lindsay Griffin to take the mantle as our incoming President/CEO on Jan. 1, 2022."
On behalf of the Board, Lynett thanked Van Genderen for his transformational leadership and vision, and wished him well in his retirement with the knowledge that the legacy he has created will continue with Griffin.