Joan Verplanck: DSCC Second Female President and CEO
A Rosie outlook: Verplanck brings fresh ideas to Delaware.
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The chamber needs fresh ideas, sources agree. At its peak in 1988, there were 3,700 members. There were mixers, lunches, dinners, workshops and large-scale business and consumer trade shows. Today it has 1,500 members, although multiple locations of a business, such as Walgreens, no longer count as separate members, Heffron says.
Health benefits were once a primary reason for small and medium-sized businesses to join. That changed as rates rose across the board. Verplanck is excited about a chamber benefit exchange, which encompasses dental, health, vision and life and disability benefits. She hopes to offer the program to local chambers, which can offer it to their members.
Over the summer, Verplanck met with committee leaders to discuss programs. Frequent networking mixers can “suck the life out of a chamber’s human resources,” she says. “It’s time to seed that landscape to local chambers. It makes more sense.”
She’s reached out to the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce to work on joint activities, and she wants to involve the many downstate chambers. (Downstate, it doesn’t matter that she’s from New Jersey; she’s an outsider only because she’s not from Sussex County, Burris agrees.) Bob Older, founder of the Delaware Small Business Chamber, says he’s not heard from her, but he’d love to work together.
The state chamber has also been putting together its legislative agenda for the next session. “We’re going back to building policy from the committees up,” Heffron says. “It’s a more intensive process; we’re focusing on very specific items, not a general agenda.”
Verplanck says government in general can prove frustrating. No matter how attractive Delaware looks to a company considering a location here, a project must still go through roadblocks with municipal planning boards.
She recognizes that patience is not her virtue. “I always think I can get somewhere in 20 minutes because I move fast,” she says. “You can’t impose that on people because it’s borderline crazy.”
And what is her best characteristic? “I think I’m a good friend,” she says. “I maintain friendships with people I grew up next to in Detroit.” There are no toxic friends who need to be “divorced.” She chooses friends carefully from the start.
She doesn’t regret much about her career or life, although she would have liked more children. She does, however, have eight grandchildren. Each summer she spends time with one grandchild just after the family vacation, which this year topped 15 people—including her ex-husband.
“Vacation is something that makes you happy to get back to work,” she says. And that is exactly what she’s doing. “I hope I have fun here.”
Either way, she’s rolling back her proverbial shirtsleeves. It’s time for Rosie the Riveter to flex her muscles.