Keep Calm And Kerri On:“Inspiring The Next Generation”

Keep Calm and Kerri On:“Inspiring the Next Generation”

Dear Friends,

There is a quote from Vincent Van Gogh “I would rather die of passion than of boredom”. Passion inspires creativity and pushes us to take on new challenges and experiences. Inspiration is just passion turned into an idea, and fuels us to continue down a path.

Where does your inspiration usually come from?

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My staff laughs because I will email them at odd times of the day, whenever I get an “idea”. Generally, this happens early in the morning when I am at the gym or after I shower (well really, when I am in the shower, but I hold back from emailing them right then). It’s understood that I do not expect them to acknowledge or answer me; I just need to share the “idea” before I forget. I’ll come into work, they’ll look at me and say “Shower idea again?”

In the fall of 2019, as I was ready to embark on my first full year as President & CEO of Commerce Chenango, we were brainstorming ideas for new programs that could relate to the needs of Chenango County.

A focus of mine has been the next generation. Do we have what we need to attract and retain the next generation of leaders? Physical structures are important, but I am also talking about the social, emotional and mental structures needed. Can we meet the needs of the next generation? Are we able to grow and change so that we are an attractive community that will listen, be open and implement?

Do we really know what the next generation of leaders thinks about our community? Why are those ready to leave for college ready to hit the road, never to look back? What do they think they can get somewhere else that they’re not getting here?

My daughter, Rachael, is just finishing her junior year of college and soon will be looking at law schools, and deciding where to make a life for herself. I have friends who have children graduating college, interviewing for jobs, and they’re not looking here.

Why not? We live in an undeniably beautiful part of the country. We have a wide variety of businesses and industries. Our schools are excellent, with small class sizes and dedicated teachers. There are endless opportunities to get involved, volunteer, run for office and make a difference. What are we missing? Why are we having a hard time attracting a younger professional workforce? It got me thinking about how can we can address these questions and begin working on this together in a real way.

We began talking about hosting a summit to discuss talent attraction, workforce retention, and community needs. Our inaugural event was to be held May 2020, but like many plans for last year, we had to put them on hold. I never stopped thinking about the impact of a community-wide discussion about these issues. In fact, COVID helped develop the concept even further, because the pandemic showed us other issues that are facing us that deters development that we can now discuss in a real way.

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I am so pleased and excited to share that our very first Talent Pipeline and Population Recovery Strategies Summit that will be held on Wednesday, May 12th beginning at 8:30 a.m. It’s not how we originally envisioned it (we are holding this year’s event virtually using Zoom) but it couldn’t be a better time to have these discussions!

I am so thankful to our event sponsors who understand the importance of these conversations, and chose to support us. Thanks to our main sponsor Chenango Health Network, and our supporting sponsor Preferred Mutual Insurance Company, we are able to host an all day summit filled with general sessions, breakout sessions and meaningful roundtable discussions that will focus on what our community needs to grow. Our schedule for the day is mostly final, and we have over twelve sessions from industry experts and leaders covering a variety of topics.

From how to attract and retain your workforce, to business connections and the importance of mentorship, barriers to employment such as childcare and broadband, what recruitment and retention looks like post-pandemic and more. One of the sessions that I am excited about is from our friends at DCMO BOCES, who will feature a panel of students that will talk about what they think about our community, our businesses, how important culture is to them, and what they are looking for in their future. There IS no better way to find out what the next generation wants, than by asking them.

You can find out more about the Summit on our website, at and click on “Chamber Events”. Our event is open to anyone, but you must register to attend. As always, members get a discounted rate, and we are even offering a group rate for any organization that has over 5 people who would like to participate. Whether you can attend for the whole day or are only interested in a few sessions, we invite you to check out the schedule and register.

This event is just the beginning of a broader discussion on how to attract and retain talent, and I am looking forward to continued conversations and programs addressing this. We will use this as a platform for future events, and in 2022, we will look to host this in person.

I asked earlier where your inspiration comes from. I find inspiration everywhere! My family, my friends, conversations, movies and even books. In fact, I have a brand new interest, thanks to a new book I am reading called “Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett. It is an amazing book, which captured me right from the start. It has also inspired me to try opera (listening, not singing). I had some quizzical looks from my staff when they came into my office last week to hear opera coming from my computer! We shall see where my new interest takes me … I may have to finally learn Italian!

Stammi bene, Chenango. ~ Kerri


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