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Cecilia Harry, chief economic development officer, Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC. (Chancey Bush/ The Gazette) 

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Her first year on the job was not one Cecilia Harry could ever have envisioned.

She stepped into her role as chief economic development officer for the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC in December 2019. She and her family had moved from Wisconsin, where Harry had been president and CEO of Envision Greater Fond du Lac.  That is the combined chamber of commerce and EDC for that community. She was eager to dive in.  She wanted to shake hands with business and city leaders and attend gatherings and visit key employers.

And then the pandemic took hold.  “I got my 90-day review in quarantine,” she recalls.

Unique challenges were ahead

“This role is supposed to be so visible and so connected throughout the business community and the greater Colorado Springs community,” she says. There’s been so many lost opportunities to better understand the region. I want to tour facilities and be in the same room as people.

However, she turned to the virtual workspace to make connections and build relationships.  She held  Zoom meetings.  This  replaced in-person group meetings and one-on-one sessions over coffee. She helped Chamber & EDC President and CEO Dirk Draper develop a Regional Recovery Council.  It consists of health officials and members of the economic development community.  They help business deal with the impact of the pandemic. She lead the way as the Chamber and EDC’s focus shifted more to helping local businesses simply survive. In December, the 38-year-old Harry was named to the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives’ 2020 “40 Under 40” list of emerging leaders shaping the chamber of commerce industry.

“Our community hit the jackpot when Cecilia came to the Chamber & EDC,” Susan Edmondson, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs, said in an email. “She’s a true practitioner: building relationships at the local, state and national level; using data effectively; and always thinking strategically and holistically.”

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