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Business Advisory Council: Charles S. North

Charlie S. North
Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce

Charles S. North, president of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, relocated to the Hudson Valley in 1982 to work as vice president and business development officer of Norstar Bank. He left banking in 1990 to pursue his interest in radio as vice president of public relations for WKIP and Q92.1 FM. In 1992, having made a name for himself in the business community, he was appointed to the presidency of the Poughkeepsie Area Chamber of Commerce.

During his tenure at this position, the Chamber thrived. Membership doubled, programs to enhance business and member activities increased, satellite offices for state and national business development were instituted; advocacy for legislation affecting business strengthened; its website, a first for chambers in Dutchess County, was created; student scholarships were established; the Kids Expo was brought to the City of Poughkeepsie; spotlights illuminated the towers of the Mid-Hudson Bridge; and collaborations among municipal leaders and area organizations increased to ensure a vitality of life in Dutchess County.

In 1996, Mr. North returned to banking as vice president of marketing, public relations & business development at Riverside Bank; however, in 2000 he accepted the opportunity and challenge to become president of the Poughkeepsie Area Chamber of Commerce once again.

Under Mr. North’s second term, the Chamber has enjoyed further success. Membership has increased to nearly 1,800 members, resulting in the organization's name change in 2008 from Poughkeepsie Area Chamber of Commerce to Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce. The organization's Board of Directors felt the new name more accurately reflected the organization's constituency with members throughout Dutchess County-51% are located outside the City and Town of Poughkeepsie. Attendance at Chamber events has continued to rise and members are encouraged to participate in a variety of activities including legislative action and economic development designed to direct more attention to small and local business. The Think Local First Campaign is one example of his commitment to growing the local economy. Created in 2006, the campaign is very popular thanks to the partnerships Mr. North has formed with local media and other chambers of commerce. This has resulted in the popular delivery of the message to "Think Local First." The program was expanded in 2007 to have the Chamber provide, at no cost to its members, the "Think Local First" MasterCard gift card. The program now includes raising awareness regarding not-for-profits with its “Give Local First” adaptation, and by promoting Hudson Valley workforce retention through its “Work Local First” version. Also implemented is the “Think Green First” movement that encourages businesses to be mindful of reducing their environmental footprint.

Additional advancements include the Chamber's website, which was extensively redeveloped to better serve its visitors. The community is regularly treated to necklace lighting illuminating the F.D.R.-Mid Hudson Bridge in recognition of significant events. Some of these events include the Go Red for Heart Business After Hours, held in conjunction with the American Heart Association, and the Think Pink Business After Hours event that is held in conjunction with the American Cancer Society. Other non-profits that have benefited from partnering with the Chamber include the Anderson Center for Autism, Dutchess County ARC, the Mid-Hudson Employment Alliance, and VESID. In addition, the Chamber was instrumental in bringing the 2005 Empire State Games to the Mid-Hudson region.

Honoring strategic business people who are active in the recruitment, development, and advancement of women in the workplace is also a priority for Mr. North. Since 2006, the Chamber has honored Dutchess County's finest who have assisted women in their attainment of professional goals and leadership skills at the annual Dutchess County Athena Awards. Responding to membership requests for a structured group that would respond to professional women’s needs in the workplace, the Chamber formed a committee dubbed the Women's Leadership Alliance. The group meets monthly to ensure that women in the business community continue to grow their development and leadership skills. Thanks to an overwhelming positive response, nearly 200 members in fact, the Women’s Leadership Alliance recently launched its own Web site that acts as a tool for the group’s new Mentoring program.

Recently the Chamber has announced the "Green" and "Membership Alliance" committees. The “Green" committee's mission is to raise awareness about limited resources and to provide support for businesses to reduce their ecological footprint. The "Chamber Alliance" committee acts as vehicle for volunteer-driven chambers of commerce with limited resources that may need assistance. To date, nine local chambers have forged partnerships with the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. North has also reintroduced a community favorite-the Air Force Band of Liberty concerts and the popular Government guide, which acts as a public service resource. His enthusiasm for serving the business community and the public resulted in the Chamber acquiring the three-day Mid Hudson Balloon Festival. Today, the event is so well attended that it acts as an economic driver for the area's tourism sector. Mr. North firmly believes in the adage "Knowledge is power," and has implemented regular complimentary Chamber business seminars as way for members to stay informed and viable in today's uneasy economy.

Also during this time, much has been done to augment the Workforce Development Center at the Chamber. The Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation was established to supplement the activities of the Workforce Development Center, and to increase the funds available for the Chamber's scholarship programs. Today Chamber scholarships include the Richard W. Mitchell, Eileen Hickey Nursing, Juan Lafuente, Engineering, Audrey Morgernstern Communications, Cosimo DiBrizzi Culinary Institute, and two Athena endowments.

Mr. North is a community activist, a volunteer, and a board member for area organizations. He co-founded and chaired the popular March of Dimes Fundraiser, "Best of the Hudson Valley" in 1990; was chairman of the United Way Golf tournament for four years; served as president of the Rotary Club of Poughkeepsie South from 1988-1989; served as chair of the Dutchess County Arts Fund in 1989, and was on the board of the Dutchess County Arts Council from 1995-2000, and was chairman from 1997-1998. Mr. North has also served on the boards of Lighthouse International, the American Red Cross, United Way of Dutchess County, Taconic Resources for Independence, Greater Southern Dutchess Chamber of Commerce, Poughkeepsie Area Chamber of Commerce, Amrita Club, and the Mid-Hudson Civic Center. He served on the City of Poughkeepsie Marketing Committee, Poughkeepsie Train Station Committee, Dutchess County Economic Development's Tourism Committee, and he was chairman of the 2005 Empire State Games Organizing Committee.

Mr. North has provided service to various not for profits including the American Cancer Society, Arlington Education Foundation, Lutheran Care Center at Concorde Village, Dutchess County Tourism, Saint Francis Hospital Foundation, Dutchess County United Way and has served as chair for United Way's 2006 campaign.

Mr. North can often be found volunteering his services as an emcee for many civic organizations' events from galas, special events, bowling tournaments and auctions, showcasing his vocal talent and charismatic personality.

His community involvement is well known and often honored. In 1990 he received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from Taconic Resources for Independence; in 1992 the Dutchess County Association for Retarded Citizens honored him with the Bessie Payne Humanitarian Award. In 2000 the Dutchess County Association of Retarded Citizens honored him with the Katz Volunteer of the Year Award. In April 2002 The Dutchess County YWCA honored him for his outstanding accomplishments as a "Community Leader and Friend." Also in 2002, Mr. North earned a special citation from the Dutchess County Arts Council for his work in ensuring that the arts remain a key component to the economic development in the Dutchess County community.

In June 2003, Mr. North was recognized for his work with Lighthouse, Inc. He received the prestigious Dale Carnegie Leadership Award in December 2003. This award is given annually to less than 20 people worldwide. It was bestowed upon him in recognition of his leadership skills and for building an organization that strongly supports the Hudson Valley region. In May 2004, he received the Spirit of St. Martin Award from St. Martin de Porres Church. In March 2006 the Mill Street Loft presented Mr. North with a special recognition award honoring his contributions to the local arts community. Additionally in May 2006, he was honored by the Jewish Community Center of Dutchess County. In May 2007, the Alzheimer's Association at their annual Wine and Roses Gala honored Mr. North for his commitment to the community. In June 2007 he was honored by the Business Marketing Association with their annual Business Leadership Award. Because of his strong commitment to education and passion for students who desire to learn more about business, in April 2008 Mr. North was inducted as an honorary member of the Dutchess Community College Delta Zeta Chapter of the Alpha Beta Gamma International Business Honor Society, and Support for Military at Stewart Airport (STEWMAC).

Mr. North resides in Poughquag with his wife, Joanne, and their two sons, Alexander and Joseph.