Scranton has transformed over the past few decades, and Virginia “Ginger” Goodrich has had a front- row seat.
In 1965, Goodrich had almost finished her studies at Lackawanna Junior College when it set her up with some job interviews, including one at an accounting firm and another at the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.
Luckily for her, she was hired as secretary of the chamber’s industrial development department.
“I am allergic to math. I could have never been an accountant,” the lifelong Dickson City resident joked during a recent afternoon at the chamber building. “It all worked out, though, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Over the last 56 years, Goodrich has held many titles, including staff assistant and office manager, and now serves as executive secretary to President Robert Durkin. This position makes her a major part in the chamber’s day-to-day duties as well as overall in driving Scranton forward. With no plans to retire just yet, Goodrich relishes the work she does.
She’s also witnessed transformations within the chamber, from the superficial to the substantial. She saw the advancements in technology, making the move from typewriters to computers to the laptop she can close up and take with her at the end of the day. Goodrich also has watched more women advance in leadership roles. There have been more women in business in general over the years, she said, but also within the chamber of commerce itself.
The chamber’s mission has remained the same, Goodrich said, though most people may be unaware of what the organization offers and accomplishes, all of which Goodrich plays a part in. Its affiliate programs include the Scranton Lackawanna Industrial Building Co., or SLIBCO, of which Goodrich serves as secretary, and Lackawanna Industrial Fund Enterprises, aka LIFE, which has been the primary development team behind attracting, sustaining and growing jobs and community investment in Lackawanna County. Another, MetroAction, is a nonprofit community development organization dedicated to providing small- business loans and business development assistance, and Leadership Lackawanna and its executive program are geared toward enhancing skills for professionals.
The chamber is made up of many moving parts, and Goodrich keeps things running smoothly. She’s in charge of many different schedules, coordinating meetings with staff, members, volunteers and the board of directors (many of which she attends). All of these details contribute to the chamber’s larger idea to attract, sustain and grow businesses and jobs. It also promotes the best interests of the people, and Goodrich has seen firsthand over the years that if you grow the economy, you will promote those interests.
“You sort of see how it goes hand in hand,” she said. “There’s really a lot that’s changed about the chamber, but the mission to promote this area and its businesses and people is still at the heart of it.”
Goodrich has worked with several presidents over the years, adapting to their individual management styles.
While she began the job without much experience, she points to her time with the Girl Scouts as what helped her land the job and then learn and grow. Goodrich began as a Girl Scout at 8, and it remains part of her life. When Goodrich was a child and saw her best friend and neighbor marching down the street during the borough’s Memorial Day parade with her Brownie troop, Goodrich knew she wanted to join, too. While the troop was full, another one was just starting: Troop 112. Goodrich joined and stayed with the Girl Scouts, completing service projects, earning badges and moving up the ranks.
While working for the chamber, she opted to become a counselor to Troop 112 in her 20s and held the position for 30 years, stepping down in 2000. She also held committee positions and board memberships with Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania and its predecessor, Girl Scouts Scranton Pocono Council, and she received numerous awards from the Girl Scouts over the years.
She still reserves one vacation week per year to volunteer with the nonprofit Supporters of Camp Archbald, a group of former campers and counselors who host resident camps at the former beloved scout grounds. Still, her duties at each intertwine.
“It’s funny because in my day-to-day at the chamber, I’m assisting people, and then (at Camp Archbald), I’m also working as an assistant,” she said. “I’m just doing those odds and ends and helping out and jumping in wherever I’m needed.”
Collaboration and teamwork have always been part of Goodrich’s philosophy for success, and she noted the chamber wouldn’t work without a great staff and a large group of dedicated volunteers. In fact, volunteering is at the heart of what the chamber does, as Montage Mountain Resort and Steamtown National Historic Site, both in Scranton, were pushed forward by a group of dedicated volunteers who sought to bring the attractions to the region.
A collaborative work environment is just one of the many reasons why Goodrich opted to stay with the chamber so long. Another is the fact that, in 56 years, she’s never experienced boredom. Every day is different, and she enjoys keeping up with what’s new in Scranton.
“I never thought to go anywhere else,” Goodrich said. “It’s funny because I remember my mother saying something like ‘They won’t go out of business.’ An accounting firm, they might not be around forever, but the Chamber of Commerce, that’s not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s funny because it’s the nature of an organization like this to grow, adapt and change over time to meet the needs of the community. And that’s what (the staff does), too.”