Denver decides to vacate position with ACCGS
By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD Russell Denver, the president of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield, told Reminder Publications his decision to leave the job he has had for the past 14-plus years was "a long time coming."
Denver told the ACCGS board recently of his intentions and news quickly spread through the business community last week. Mayor Domenic Sarno was among those who thanked Denver for his service during a Chamber breakfast on Jan. 5.
Denver explained that he and his wife made the decision many months ago and he said, "You get to the point you want to do other things."
He added that while he plans to "move to a new chapter," he doesn't know what that chapter will be. He said his last day would be before March 4.
He does know that he will be remaining in the area. Denver is a member of the Appropriations Committee for the town of East Longmeadow a job he enjoys and wants to continue and serves on the board of the United Way of the Pioneer Valley as well as being a trustee for the Plan for Progress.
Denver, a Springfield native, first worked for the ACCGS from 1988 to 1992 as the director of small business development. During that time he attended the Western New England College School of Law. After graduating and passing the bar in three states, he worked at Robinson Donovan, P.C. specializing in estate work, municipal law and banking.
He applied for the position at the Chamber and he said his tenure gave him "an experience he would never forget."
That experience has had its ups and downs. On the positive side, Denver said businesses in the area have become much more knowledgeable about the technology to allow them to keep up with the global market.
As an aside, he noted that this same technology has made an impact on Springfield's downtown. He explained that Internet technology has meant that lawyers don't have to have their offices physically close to the courthouses and other government offices since various papers and forms could be submitted electronically.
He has been disappointed by the cost of doing business in New England and by the concentration of poverty in Springfield, which has had "a dramatic impact" on the city. He explained that major retailers are more difficult to attract to the city because of its demographics.
The reduced rate of home ownership and the poor graduation rates in Springfield have also played roles in local economic development.
He has been heartened by the regional cooperation between the Springfield and Hartford, Conn., areas, which have "proven to be a real economic benefit." The joint efforts have resulted in improvements to Interstate 91, Bradley International Airport and facilities on the Connecticut River.
He has also been impressed that many of the recommendations made about the redevelopment of Springfield by the Urban Land Institute have come to fruition.
Denver has striven to make the ACCGS a "Main Street" chamber that is inclusive and committed to real change. He noted the Chamber's efforts to increase the length of Springfield mayoral term to four years and the creation of the chief administrative and financial officer in Springfield revised municipal government.
In light of his departure, the ACCGS board will be making a reassessment of the organization, which might give them assistance in determining his successor.
Denver said the response to his announcement has been "heartwarming."