Her ongoing dedication to bringing teams together to do good work recently earned Chena Tucker, director of SUNY Oswego’s Office of Business and Community Relations, the Nancy L. Premo – Woman of Distinction Award from the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

"Chena embodies the very essence of this award. She is kind, passionate and community focused,” said Katie Toomey, director of the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce. “She brings a fresh perspective, and innovative ideas to the workplace and always puts her co-workers first.”

The Nancy L. Premo Award is named for a former member of the senior leadership team and vice president of human resources for the Greater Oswego Chamber of Commerce and CenterState CEO. Premo was an influential and adored team member and professional mentor, who worked to transform the culture of CenterState CEO into one that put employees at the center of every organizational decision that was made.
To honor her memory, the GOFCC created an annual award to celebrate a woman in business who models the same qualities and whose service has made a positive impact in the community. The recipient of this award is a well-rounded professional who empowers and motivates other women in business.

"Chena is not comfortable with 'the status quo' and her ability to fearlessly bring a fresh perspective, new ideas and creativity are among her most admirable qualities," Toomey noted. “She has also stepped up for the GOFCC in a very big way this year – checking in on our team, inviting us to virtual 'happy hours' and encouraged us to press on, hold our heads high and take pride in our work.” 

For Tucker, the work of creating community through kindness and empathy is a natural extension of her worldview. Since she leads a small but busy OBCR team that has transitioned to virtual work, Tucker said she prioritized checking in with her staff and remembering that we are all just human and dealing with some really big shifts in our lives.

“I always ask how people are feeling in every virtual meeting, even before asking about the work,” Tucker said. “We were very happy to become a support system for each other, and people looked forward to seeing each other. That extends to what we do with the chamber, because they’re a part of what we do.”

OBCR provides a range of services to businesses, employees and the community, including the Small Business Development Center, Workforce Development Board, Leadership Oswego County, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, the Lifelong Learning program and more.

"On behalf of SUNY Oswego and our Office of Business and Community Relations, we appreciate CenterState's recognition of Chena Tucker's efforts," said Pamela D. Caraccioli, deputy to the president for external partnerships and economic development at SUNY Oswego.  "She is most deserving of this award given her tireless efforts to lift women in business and industry, especially those who are underserved in the Oswego County community and Central New York region."  

Staying connected

Continuing to supply support and service through the pandemic has been a priority, which was made easier by OBCR looking ahead of the curve.

“We’ve been able to provide the same caliber of service in part because we started a department transition of digitizing our internal operations about three years ago,” Tucker said, knowing this was the direction so much collaboration and commerce was going even before the pandemic. “Now everything we do in the office is digital and in the cloud. That really helped with the transition.”

In 2017, OBCR moved to two adjacent downtown Oswego locations -- 121 E. Bridge St. and 34 E. Bridge St. -- which put their team in constant proximity and contact with the chamber, with which it shares the latter building. Tucker, who is in her 10th year of working for OBCR, is on the chamber’s advisory council -- but the connections go well beyond that.

“We collaborate often with the chamber, and I wouldn’t say all of it is formal,” Tucker said. “Sometimes it’s just having conversations where we’re sharing ideas and resources.”

These collaborative efforts include supporting people who file their DBA -- “doing business as,” starting a business enterprise -- with Oswego County, as the chamber, OBCR and SBDC reach out to them to share the services, resources and opportunities that are available to those starting a small business.

“It provides access to resources and connections for the business owner, OBCR and the chamber,” Tucker said.

OBCR and the chamber have collaborated on HealthTrain, “a two-week training session for those seeking jobs in the healthcare industry,” Tucker said. “We reached out to local healthcare providers to get them engaged and to see what training resources we could make available to people they’re looking to hire or promote.”

The chamber and OBCR also are working with local school districts, CitiBOCES and other partners on an April 14 Virtual Career Summit for high school students and other teenagers.

Tucker said she was surprised but honored with the award. “It’s humbling and of course a great feeling to be recognized for the work that you do,” she said.

For more information on the Office of Business and Community Resources, visit oswego.edu/obcr.