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DiPirro to retire as Amherst Chamber leader

Amherst Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Colleen DiPirro, who has led the organization for 35 years, will retire in January.

The chamber has selected A.J. Baynes Jr. to replace DiPirro during a four-month transition period beginning in September.

"It's bittersweet," DiPirro said. "My life has revolved around this organization and growing the prosperity of Amherst and the region."

Baynes, chief of staff for state Sen. Patrick Gallivan, will step into the role as the chamber's president beginning Sept. 5.

DiPirro will remain CEO until Jan. 26, when Baynes will take on those duties, as well. After DiPirro retires, she will remain a consultant with the organization.

DiPirro is a longtime prominent figure in local economic development circles. The Amherst Chamber has a budget of $1 million, nine employees when fully staffed, and 3,000 members, including 1,250 member firms.

The Amherst Chamber was looking for someone with knowledge about public policy and economic development who had a regional vision, DiPirro said.

Baynes "comes in with a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of creativity," DiPirro said.

A.J. Baynes Jr.

Earl Wells, chairman of the Amherst Chamber's board, said Baynes emerged as a strong choice to succeed DiPirro. "He's very well respected. He blew the doors off our executive committee when he came in" to meet with them, Wells said. DiPirro was actively involved in the selection process, he added.

Wells said DiPirro has stayed in tune with the needs of the town's business community, while also seeing a bigger, regional picture with the group. "I think that regional approach is really where she's left her mark."

Baynes, 35, said it was difficult to leave his role with Gallivan after seven years, but saw the Amherst Chamber job as a good next step. "The Chamber is held in such high regard, and Colleen especially," Baynes said.

He has a strong interest in small business and economic development and sees Amherst as a hotbed of that activity. "It's not a bedroom community, it's an economic engine," he said.

DiPirro has overseen the Chamber during a time when Amherst became a focal point of point of economic development in the region. One of the town's challenges is redevelopment of older retail properties, an issue she said she intends to focus on as a consultant to the organization.

DiPirro said she will continue serving in a couple of other roles – on the Erie County Industrial Development Agency's policy committee and the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.

 

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