Ask Trish McFarland what she loves about Delaware County, and she’ll reel off a long list of what makes the area perfect for business owners and their employees. That’s part of what made McFarland the best choice for president of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, a role she assumed in March. The first woman to hold this job, McFarland has big plans for the chamber and its members.
MLT: Your roots run deep in Delco and with its chamber of commerce.
TM: I’ve never lived anywhere else. I grew up in Drexel Hill and went to O’Hara, then graduated from West Chester University—and I still live in Springfield. At WCU, I studied political science and public management. I’m fascinated by how things get done, and I wanted to be involved in making our communities better. My first job with the chamber came in 2003, when I was hired as an event coordinator.
MLT: How has the chamber changed from then to now?
TM: Chambers in 2003 were completely different from what they are today. For starters, people’s lives are busier, and while they still want to grow their businesses, many don’t think they have time to participate in chambers. Also, health insurance is different. When I first started, businesses’ main incentive to join was to get a group rate on health insurance. Legislation did away with that, and while our chamber is still very involved in helping members manage their health insurance—especially as it has changed with the Affordable Care Act—it’s no longer the incentive to join that it once was. That’s why we need to reinvent the chamber.
MLT: How will you do that?
TM: My biggest opportunity and challenge is to let people and businesses know what the chamber is and how we can help them. People think it’s an institution that will always be there. I want to let people know what we really can do.
MLT: What are the biggest challenges facing businesses in Delaware County?
TM: Transportation is a big one—getting employees to and from work efficiently through our region. Having reliable, easy forms of transportation helps businesses attract and retain high-quality employees.
MLT: Name three other hot-button issues facing chamber members.
TM: Health insurance remains something we help our members manage, as are concerns about energy and conservation. Then there’s pension reform, as it relates to the state budget. It’s not a big business issue, but it is a big issue for businesses.
MLT: As the chamber’s first female president, will you advocate for women in the workplace?
TM: Absolutely, especially for working moms. I have three kids—they’re 7, 6 and 2 years old. I had to do a lot of thinking about whether I wanted to even submit my résumé for this job, not only because it’s full time, but because it involves evening events. After a lot of thought and conversation with my family, I decided that I did want this position. I’m lucky because my husband, parents and extended family support me greatly.
I think moms can do it all, as long as we find the right balance. It’s not easy, and I’m not going to say it is. But I’d like to be an example of someone who can be a mom and a successful career woman. And I’ll help other women do the same.