2020 Community Champion: Dutchess County

The Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce and Frank A. Castella, Jr.




Founded on November 20, 1907, as the Poughkeepsie Area Chamber of Commerce, the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce may have changed its name a few times, but its mission has always remained the same; help the economy grow by being a resource for businesses in the community. In 2007, on the 100th Anniversary of our founding, the decision was made to rename the organization the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce. The current structure of our organization came about in 2011 with the consolidation of what was previously the Poughkeepsie Area Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Dutchess Chamber of Commerce.

Throughout our history we have provided networking opportunities for our community such as our Contact Breakfasts and Business After Hours, the former of which celebrated its 700th edition last year, and the latter can be traced back to the 1910s. Be it our gala, the Hudson Valley’s Forty Under 40 Mover & Shaker Awards, the Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival, or our annual Athena Awards, we have continued to innovate the types of events we host while maintaining our connection to our long and rich past.

Similarly, the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce has continued the workforce development initiatives it started in the Great Depression. Back then it was called the Emergency Work Bureau, but today it is called the Workforce Development Center and it helps more than 450 people annually. By investing early and often, even at the high school level in the case of our Career Action Center at Poughkeepsie High School, we are seeing the investment pay off with a more educated and better-equipped workforce.

And now that brings us to today, and the upheaval every business has had to face in how they operate. Early on we recognized our economy was entering into a chapter unlike no other. Government-mandated closures, quarantine lockdowns on entire communities, and businesses trying to understand what all of these changes meant to their very existence. So many asked, and are still asking, what does this all mean? And that is where we came in.

Our Chamber partnered with many of the other business development organizations in our region, along with state and local government leaders and agencies, to create the Dutchess Business Notification Network. This consortium of perspectives and expertise would become the foundation that many Hudson Valley businesses used to both understand what was happening now, and how they could prepare for the future.

Now when I tell you it is difficult to start a new organization, I’m sure you would agree. Determining the mission, developing a strategy, even simple things like building a website and social media presence, all these are things that normally take months, if not years, to do. We did it all in two days. Nearly 100 emails reaching over 9,000 individuals later, the Dutchess Business Notification Network continues to serve as the primary information outlet for many businesses in Dutchess County and the Hudson Valley as a whole.

We’ve held over 20 business assistance webinars and responded to thousands of industry-specific and nonprofit support requests. We created a news resource website, social media information pages, and business promotion pages, generated campaigns for Farm Stand Friday’s, Takeout Tuesdays, Think Local First, and Honking for Heroes. We’ve hosted two Personal Protective Equipment distributions for essential businesses, and pushed our Federal, State, and local representatives for more assistance for businesses. In short, we’ve done a lot, but we aren’t done yet.

We will continue to fight for additional guidance and assistance for employers throughout the Hudson Valley because now is not the time to simply assume they will be okay. Yes, we will bounce back, but there is a long road ahead and the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce plans to be sitting shotgun with all the employers for the entire journey. We stand ready to be a partner for all employers, and a resource for the community as a whole. I am honored and humbled to accept this award on behalf of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, and I want to thank you for recognizing the amazing work our staff, our board, and all of our members have done over the past few months. Thank you again and remember, when you shop, when you dine, even when you shop online, Think Local First!

Annual Sponsors

Premier Annual Sponsors: Central Hudson Gas & Electric, M&T Bank, Orange & Rockland, Pratt & WhitneyAnnual Sponsors: IBM, Resorts World, RBT, TD Bank, Ulster Savings