Suzanne Beck to retire from Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce

  • Suzanne Beck, executive director of the Northampton Chamber of Commerce, laughs while jokes are told March 17, 2017 during the Northampton St. Patrick's Association's 37th annual St. Patrick's Day Breakfast at the Hotel Northampton.

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    Northampton Chamber of Commerce executive director Suzanne Beck opens the "Incite Information" luncheon at the Delaney House in Holyoke Tuesday where the featured speaker was Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary Richard Davey.KEVIN GUTTINGNorthampton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Suzanne Beck opens the “Incite Information” luncheon at the Delaney House in Holyoke, Tuesday. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 2/4/2019 11:41:04 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Twenty-six years ago, Suzanne Beck was presented with an “irresistible opportunity” — the job of executive director of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce.

“Northampton was really kind coming into its own as a major vibrant downtown and surrounding community,” Beck recalled Monday. Plus, the chamber was going through a period of rebuilding, a welcome challenge for her.

Now, Beck has announced she is retiring from leading the chamber, which now has 650 members and several affiliate groups.

“I loved every minute of it,” she said. “From the seat as executive director, every day is different from the day before it, every year is different from the year before it.”

The chamber has grown considerably in the years since Beck took over, said Patrick Goggins, president of Goggins Real Estate and two-time president of the chamber’s board of directors.

“She was a strong advocate for the business community,” Goggins said. On a regular basis, he said, she went before the mayor and other city officials on issues such as ballot questions. “Her voice was always heard and always appreciated.”

Goggins was on the committee of people who hired Beck.

“She turned out to be a wise choice ... She’s proven to be an excellent leader and she has the ability to encourage consensus,” he said.

In the early 2000s, the chamber teamed up with the Three County Fair to redevelop the 55-acre site on Bridge Street.

“It’s the oldest continuously operated (agricultural) fair in the country — it has a lot of historical and agricultural significance. It was great to be a part of that,” Beck reflected.

Under her tenure, the city also saw the 1995 launch of “Arrive @ 5,” monthly mixers aimed at the business community. “We’re a social community,” she said.

Arrive @ 5 has been popular — the 11 annual events have an average of 125 attendees, she said. “Do the math,” Beck said.

The Northampton Area Young Professionals also began as a chamber affiliate in her time as executive director.

There have been challenges, too. Online competition is one pressure on local business that has materialized over the past few decades, but Beck said the 2012 formation of the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council, an affiliate of the chamber that receives some state funding, has helped.

“One of the antidotes to external competition that we can’t really control has been our ability to have a significant influence on making Hampshire County and Northampton an attractive place to visit and building our notoriety as a destination to visitors and retirees,” she explained.

“We’ve been responsible for a tremendous amount of PR and editorial coverage of Northampton,” she added.

Though the chamber has embarked on new initiatives over the past few decades, Beck pointed to high energy from the business community as an important driver to her work as executive director.

“Every one of those years there has been a seemingly unlimited amount of energy from business owners and people who work in business and in non-profit organizations to invest their leadership in making the community better and the area better,” she said.

Her exact date of retirement has not yet been determined, and she said she will be working with the board of directors on the specific timing of her exit.

When asked what she will miss, she said: “The deepest pleasure of the job is such a strong connection to the community that comes with the role — that’s one thing that will be so different.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com


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