After nearly 26 years with the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, President and CEO Jack Hornbeck, CCE, will retire on September 30, 2013.
A 40-year Chamber of Commerce professional, Hornbeck has served Chambers across the East Coast, including in Middletown, New York; East Hartford, Connecticut; Pensacola, Florida; and Atlanta, Georgia. From 1978 to 1980, he served on the staff of the Norfolk Chamber, before the five southside city Chambers merged into a regional Chamber in 1984.
When asked about his greatest accomplishments, Hornbeck cites transportation legislation as his landmark issue. “Finding a dedicated, permanent, and adequate source of revenue to source [Hampton Roads'] transportation infrastructure has been at least a 20-year effort by the business community and the Chamber,” Hornbeck said. “In fact, I participated in a press conference while the issue was working its way through the General Assembly. [Governor Bob McDonnell] said, 'I know that Jack is retiring and he wants this to be his legacy,' so to me it’s a really big issue.”
Hornbeck also mentioned being particularly proud of the establishment of the Chamber’s current affiliates, the Hampton Roads Sports Commission, the Small Business Development Center of Hampton Roads, and Chamber Solutions, as well as its leadership program LEAD Hampton Roads. “These were all organizations and programs that didn’t exist when I came here, and today they are an important part of the Chamber and business community of Hampton Roads,” Hornbeck said.
Regarding the various challenges that the Chamber faced during his tenure, Hornbeck described arriving to work in 1999 and discovering that an air conditioning hose had burst, causing massive water damage. “The complete ceiling of my office had collapsed,” Hornbeck recalled. “Half of the building was unusable, so the issue was what we were going to do. Would we now have to go find space somewhere else?” Fortunately, operations were able to continue by deploying staff to other offices and consolidating where necessary during six months of renovations. “Staff and volunteers really pitched in to help us get our feet back on the ground. That [flood] was probably the most interesting situation that occurred that was internal, but at the same time brought out the best in people.”
On June 13, Jack was honored at a private retirement celebration hosted by Willcox & Savage in Norfolk. Friends, family, and business colleagues gathered to wish him farewell. Chairs of the Boards from across the region spoke to the crowd, with Chamber Chair Deborah Stearns saying, “While there have been many changes in the local business community during Jack’s time as President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber, he has not changed his commitment and enthusiasm for the job. I believe Jack’s greatest accomplishments are the Chamber’s excellent reputation as a leading organization in the region, its solid financial position, and building a cohesive staff."
Speaking on behalf of former Chairs of the Chamber, Dorcas Helfant-Browning commented on what an “awesome” experience it had been to work with Hornbeck over the years at the Hampton Roads Chamber. “Jack came with wonderful Chamber experience,” she said. “I remember during the term I served, we were talking about rail—not light rail, but the fact that rail was going to be running from New York to Florida—high speed someday, and we weren’t even on the drawing board for a spur. Jack got to work on that right then; today, you can get on Amtrak [at Harbor Park].”
After accepting a framed caricature as a gift from Chamber staff, Hornbeck wrapped up the evening by thanking the attendees. “It has been for me, and my family, a great run. Staying 25 years would indicate that we really enjoy living in Hampton Roads. Thank you all so much. We have made this our home and I expect we will remain involved with things we enjoy doing.”
A search committee is actively pursuing Hornbeck’s replacement, who should be in place by late fall.