Chamber’s Suter set to retire from post

KEENE – Phil Suter, the congenial president and CEO announced that he will retire from the Greater Keene & Peterborough Chamber of Commerce after nearly eight years at the helm.

The K&P chamber organization in Cheshire county has more than 500 members.

Suter said his decision to move on was to try new things and to relax a bit.

“It’s a pretty simple answer,” he said to the question as to what’s next. “I turned 68 last month and I got to thinking about doing some other things. I plan to stick around New Hampshire. I live in Peterborough and I expect I’ll be involved in things related to consulting to small businesses and nonprofits.”

Suter may become a bit of a snowbird, he added, saying “I have a little place in Arizona near Tucson so I hope to be able to disappear there for short periods of time.”

The last year for the chamber and its effectiveness was tested. Suter said there some good news and bad news to that.

“The number one thing that people need to keep in mind is chambers are small businesses, too,” he said. “Like many of the hundreds, if not thousands of businesses around the state, we had to make some adjustments. They range from some pragmatic ones, like how do we continue to provide value to our members when we can’t do it in person?”

That aligned the chamber to start examining what the they have always provided: information. Suter said sharing information among members became tantamount for many to survive or succeed.

“That became really, really important,” he continued. “It remains important. It became really important in the early days of the pandemic – especially from March through the summer.”

Intel from the state, federal and local levels was prevalent during that time and Suter said much was shared about the types of programs that were being made available to help small businesses and larger businesses as well.

“Like most chambers, most of our members are small businesses,” he said. “We were particularly tuned into that. And one of the things we did was to put together a pretty robust COVID information page on our website. And that kind of drove and continues to drive people to that and we try to keep it up to date daily.”

It was important for the chamber to keep its members up-to-date on news such as PPP loans and similar programs. Consequently, many of Keene’s downtown businesses survived the worst of the pandemic – assuming that we’ve already seen the worst of it.

“Most were able to ride out the storm,” he said. “It’s a little difficult to pinpoint as to whether any business had to close. There are a couple of businesses that we scheduled to close anyway because people were retiring.”

Suter said some of those businesses got lumped into a “the sky is falling” mentality. The businesses in the downtown areas have been creative and collaborative about how to adjust to things such as curbside pick-up and other services. Some in that area were already set-up to do that while others quickly learned.

“There were a lot of people out there were willing to help,” he said. “Here in the Monadnock region, we always pride ourselves on being very collaborative and people kind of drop their personal political views at the door when they get together to fix something.”

Suter said that way of thinking propelled what could have been a worse 2020- if that’s humanly possible.

“We’re still a ways from being out of this,” he pointed out. “That’s something that we’re all mindful of and we have to keep our eye on the ball and keep doing the things we do as a community to come out of this completely and get back to whatever the next normal is going to be.”