By LIBBY CUDMORE • The Freeman’s Journal & Hometown Oneonta
COOPERSTOWN – Even before she was named executive director for the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, Tara Burke was a big fan of the business community.
“My family loves the Fly Creek Cider Mill, and we always go to brunch at The Otesaga,” she said. “My brother is a big fan of ‘Game of Thrones,’ so we always have to go by Brewery Ommegang and get beer for him.”
Burke, director of communications & program development at the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce in Elmira, started April 1. She succeeds Matt Hazzard, who is leaving after five years to run his Leatherstocking Trolley Co.
Called “the clear and compelling choice” by chamber Board President Danielle Henrici, she was chosen by unanimous vote at the board’s meeting in late February.
Burke started as an administrative assistant at the Chemung Chamber, but quickly rose through the ranks. “I had no experience when I started,” she said. “But I was able to learn about everything they can do, and working from the ground up was beneficial.”
She developed a specialty in workforce development.
“Elmira had a lot of manufacturing, so we held a Manufacturing Expo and brought in 500 students and members of the community to learn about careers in manufacturing,” she said. “There were a lot of opportunities there.”
She also did a lot of event planning. “We were a very traditional chamber,” she said. “We did economic forums, annual meetings, golf tournaments and award breakfasts,” she said. “And in Cooperstown, the chamber does a lot of community-based events, so I’m excited by those.”
In settling into her now role, Burke wants to meet with all the businesses to assess how the chamber can best serve them. “I want to figure out what they need so we can tailor what we are offering.
She also wants to continue to use her workforce-development training to help local businesses.
“I want to see what they need and what workforce development can do for them,” she said. “Whether that’s workshops or leadership classes, help with HR or marketing, there’s an opportunity for education.”
Burke is a native of Guilderland and lived in West Oneonta for two years, working as a newspaper copy editor.
She graduated from Elmira College, then obtained a Masters in English from the University of South Dakota.
Now living here with her daughter, Zoey, and husband, Jake, a web designer, she has carried on the family tradition.
“Zoey just had her first brunch at The Otesaga,” she said. “It’s nice to come back here. I’ve always loved this area.”