Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce: Leading business and community engagement

Bob McKenna, VPCC president and CEO, center left, and Tom Cosgrove, executive committee chair, share the honor of cutting the ribbon at the opening of the City Center office.

As the leading non-partisan business advocacy organization working in the legislative, regulatory, civic and judicial arenas at the local and state level, the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce (VPCC) strives to be a driving force for the long-term economic growth of the region. Bob McKenna, president and CEO, works with local organizations and businesses to support the community through their core values. 

With the decision to move its location to City Center, VPCC is more equipped to serve the Newport News community with larger office and conference spaces and a premium location with a “walk-in, off-the-street presence,” according to McKenna.

With a board of directors and volunteers who represent the business community, VPCC is a connector to help and inspire leaders as well as champion economic growth within the local community. Suzy Johnson, executive vice president, has been working with the Chamber for nearly 18 years and is responsible for the daily operations, including management of various internal and external outreach programs, finance, budgeting, oversight of staff functions and general office management. Allie Carson, program manager, has been working closely with the chamber for the last 18 months and is responsible for coordinating all events.

After serving a career in the military for 27 years as a U.S. Navy officer and retiring as a captain in 2011, McKenna has been serving as the Chamber’s CEO for the last five years. As a self-proclaimed natural extrovert, McKenna enjoys getting to know everyone with whom he interacts and remains dedicated to serving his community. “It’s important to make good, strong connections within the community. These connections not only help to expand one’s social circle, but they also allow you to create healthy business relationships,” McKenna says. “Having been in this position, my circle of connections has grown tremendously, and I have met so many wonderful and fascinating people over the years.”

The Chamber makes a positive impact on the surrounding communities, which include the cities of Hampton, Newport News and Poquoson and the counties of James City and York. Its most important program, “LEAD Peninsula,” is a civic immersion and leadership development class that recruits businesses and emerging leaders from all around the country to participate in a 10-day program that shows a behind-the-scenes look at what makes an economy work. “With 10 days of focused courses and guided instruction, leaders can explore various topics of the local economy such as transportation, health care, local government, hospitality and tourism,” McKenna says with enthusiasm. 

The Chamber also offers more focused events such as the “Pink Bag Lunch,” a networking, informational program that focuses on topics important to women in business, and “Spotlight on the Peninsula,” a free, monthly networking and invitational event series, highlighting significant regional development and economic expansion. The Chamber plans to implement a new program, the “Junior Board of Directors,” which will be a partnership between VPCC and the Luter School of Business at Christopher Newport University. 

Now, the greatest economic catalyst for business growth on the Virginia Peninsula, VPCC embraces its mission through five Cs:

Connector of people and organizations
Convener of community initiatives
Conduit of information
Champion of assets
Catalyst for positive, economic change

As an effective leader committed and dedicated to his work, McKenna continuously strives to meet as many people as possible. As a family man, McKenna enjoys hiking, walking and occasionally playing pickleball with Patty, his wife of 38 years. They have four children: Bobby, Brian, Molly and Matthew and three grandchildren. They love spending as much time as possible with their family. As an avid reader, McKenna enjoys reading about current events, biographies and historical novels, in addition to watching the television show Jack Ryan with his wife. 

McKenna says he learns something new every day to increase and expand not only community engagement but also meaningful community connections across the Virginia Peninsula.  

Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce
Contact: Bob McKenna, president and CEO
Address: 11850 Merchants Walk, Newport News, VA 23606
Phone: 757-325-8170

About Kayla Brundick 24 Articles
Kayla Brundick is a senior at Christopher Newport University (CNU) in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in English with a writing concentration. Alongside her academic course work, Kayla is also a social media promoter for the CNU Writing Center, gaining substantial social media marketing and writing skills. Outside of academics, she enjoys reading, writing, spending time with friends and family and traveling to new places. After graduation, Kayla will pursue a career in public relations as well as obtaining a master’s degree in English writing.