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Patrick Murphy to leave SL Chamber of Commerce

Chamber searches for replacement

Patrick Murphy (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

SARANAC LAKE — Patrick Murphy is stepping down from his role as executive director of the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce at the end of the month.

He will start his own private venture as a business consultant, and the chamber is looking for a successor to replace him at the helm.

Murphy has led the chamber since the fall of 2018. Last summer, he resigned from the Saranac Lake village board to spend more time on his chamber position. He said he wanted to give the chamber his full attention.

Murphy said he is leaving the chamber “in a strong, stable position” and believes that with a three-year strategic plan it developed last year, “it will only continue to grow and expand its reach.”

He said he’s enjoyed the job.

“While I look forward to my new endeavor, I will miss the opportunities to connect with you and support businesses like yours in achieving your goals,” Murphy wrote in a message to chamber members and staff.

Murphy’s new business will offer operational management services for businesses and organizations in the region.

Since he started in 2018, the chamber has gained 30 members, now totaling 220 businesses and organizations.

He said the chamber has also expanded its program offerings to include aid in retaining businesses and fostering entrepreneurs.

These include becoming a partner with the Center for Businesses in Transition — a program from the Adirondack North Country Association focused on helping business owners retiring or transitioning out of their business find a successor — and creating the co-working space The Carry for freelancers and entrepreneurs.

COVID

Murphy said the COVID-19 pandemic in the past year has been “the greatest public health and economic crisis in our generation.” It kept him busy.

“There were times during 2020 that I was working 14 days straight, weekdays, weeknights and weekends, to follow up with area businesses to make sure they had the support they needed,” Murphy wrote. “I would drop off a load of masks or hand sanitizer one minute, hop on a regional call with government officials the next, and follow that up with a constant barrage of zoom meetings and phone calls to members regarding business restrictions and government relief programs.”

He said chambers of commerce around the country had to limit staff or programs during the pandemic. The Saranac Lake Area Chamber had no staff cuts, though. The staff member other than him left, but after a period of going it alone, he was able to hire a replacement. He said the pandemic was a “defining moment that helped reinforce the ways in which chambers can be really useful.” His staff was busy despite the conditions.

“We were all out,” he said.

Franklin County Economic Development Corporation CEO Jeremy Evans said the chamber has been a “trusted local resource during the pandemic.”

“Patrick and his team used every tool available to share information and connect all businesses and organizations in the Saranac Lake community to technical and financial resources,” Evans wrote in a statement. “It has been during this most challenging time that … Murphy and the Board of Directors demonstrated the value of a trusted, local chamber of commerce.”

North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas said the Saranac Lake chamber “has shown through the pandemic why strong and engaged chambers are truly important to both individual businesses and to community economies.”

Murphy gave credit to his colleagues.

“The chamber membership, board and staff all rose to the occasion and remained flexible and creative in how the chamber was able to continue providing support to our members and community,” he wrote.

Praise for Patrick

Chamber board President Joe Shoemaker said when Murphy started in 2018, it was an uncertain time for the chamber.

“However, with his strong community development background, talented management skills and collaborative nature, Patrick was able to grow the chamber,” Shoemaker wrote.

Local government officials reacted with sadness to hear Murphy would be leaving the chamber.

“I was sorry to hear that Patrick will be stepping down,” Saranac Lake village Trustee Melinda Little wrote. She’s been a member of the chamber and a partner as a village trustee. “He’s done a fantastic job of making the chamber relevant again, and I think is leaving the chamber in very good shape.”

“Patrick has brought the chamber to the forefront under his leadership, and personally I am sad to see him go,” Harrietstown council member Tracey Schrader wrote.

“I see the value that the chamber has brought to the community under the current board and his leadership,” Harrietstown council member Jordanna Mallach wrote.

“The Saranac Lake Area Chamber is an asset to the local business community and an important partner to our organization,” Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism Chief of Staff MaryJane Lawrence wrote.

Individuals interested in applying for the executive director position should email Shoemaker at president@slareachamber.org.

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