Fabu-‘Liz’

By on April 3, 2019

The board of the Northern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce confidently chose Liz Ackerman to lead the organization forward following a name and brand change.

And why not?

Ackerman had flawlessly guided the organization as interim director during the run up to the changes made official February.

Still, the dairy farmer’s daughter — a 1996 Cocalico High School graduate whose parents farmed in Denver &tstr; continues to be thrilled by it all and humbled by the opportunity she has a the new Northern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce executive director.

“I never anticipated I’d be doing something like this,” Ackerman said, a former Lancaster County Dairy Princess. “But Lancaster County is definitely in my blood, particularly this area, which I feel is a great marriage of strong industry, dynamic work ethic, tight communities and a strong agricultural heritage.”

Earning a bachelor’s degree in communications from Penn State, Harrisburg, she launched her career with Junior Achievement in 2000 where she worked for 16 years.

The 40-year-old, who joined the chamber in 2017, has been married since May 2002 to Nick and the couple has two daughters, Josie, 12, and Evelyn, 10. Under her leadership, the NLCCC board will begin in May to establish a new strategic plan after a year-plus rebranding process. During the 2018 transition, the chamber continued to provide, and even expand, services and programs to its members.

Key changes included implementing a new website and a renewed areas of focus on workforce readiness and the need for diversified and qualified employees, she said.

“We want to be a connector to bring together both businesses, schools and non-profits and continue to provide superior level of educational programming on a number of business topics as well as business-to-business networking opportunities,” Ackerman said. Despite the overhaul, Northern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce still managed to grow, adding 42 new members in 2018. Her goal is to sign four new members per month.

“My highest priority as executive director is to ensure that every single member receives a strong return on investment,” Ackerman said. She noted the most misunderstood aspect of the Chamber is its footprint, which is the region north of Route 30 and east of Route 72, which hopefully is more apparent with the name change from the former Ephrata Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We cover a very large portion of Lancaster County,” she said. “But we are specifically focused on providing the opportunities for the businesses and the communities in this entire region.”
She thanked former executive director Andrea Glass who helped mentor her for the role. Glass recognized Ackerman’s ability to bring people together.

Working as relations and events coordinator with the former Ephrata Area Chamber of Commerce –the name was changed in October 2017 to the Northern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce — she has successfully crafted highly popular networking and educational programs such as Chamber Chat, Lunch and Learn, and Business After Hours.

Ackerman said current members help her job by actively recruiting new chamber associates who sometimes join directly through Northern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce website.

“The most exciting part is when you have members encouraging others to actually join the chamber without having to request that member recruit to us,” Ackerman said. “The greatest compliment you can receive in business is landing a new customer from another customer’s recommendation.”

Liz Ackerman. Photo by Patrick Burns.

Though admittedly biased, Ackerman said the area the chamber covers is exceptional and will continue to get even better.

“All of the elements going for the area makes Northern Lancaster County really a unique area that provides so much opportunity &tstr; for those who live here, those who work here &tstr; that I don’t think you can find anywhere else,” she said.

Ackerman said the Chamber continues to look through the lens of the business owner seeking creative ways to address challenges.

The chamber moved its offices from the former train station in downtown Ephrata to the third floor of the Brossman Complex, the former home of D&E Communications, which Windstream acquired in 2009.

From that office, looking down on downtown Ephrata, she addressed a challenge facing many businesses; parking in business districts.

“First and foremost, I don’t think there’s any town where you go into the business district and they say ‘we have too much parking,’” she said.
Ackerman noted that Ephrata is actually composed with quite a bit of parking and the availability of the public parking in the downtown is “pretty diverse.”

“Every single community we serve whether it’s Ephrata, Denver New Holland, or Lititz will have issues with parking,” she said. “It’s just the communities themselves and the governments in those communities must be pro-active to identify how do we handle this solution.”

For example, Ephrata Borough officials are very involved in taking feedback to look for such “creative ways” by balancing business parking with resident parking.

“It’s a hard solution to come up with if you’re not bringing people to the table and have them work together to find a solution that will please most people &tstr; you’re never going to make everybody happy,” she said.

Ackerman said the Ephrata area is fortunate for the borough’s newest community development organization called Mainspring of Ephrata. The newly named organization grew out of the consolidation of three pre-existing organizations–Downtown Ephrata, Inc., Ephrata Alliance, and the Ephrata Development Corporation.

“Strong businesses with diversified stores and communities working together can devise solutions but ultimately, as Mainspring is looking to do, bringing those shops and business people,” she said.

Patrick Burns is news editor for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at (717) 721-4455. 

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