Dayton Chamber CEO reflects on career, unfinished business

Phil Parker, CEO of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, explains the different commendations on his office wall, as he prepares for his July retirement. KAITLIN SCHROEDER

As Phil Parker prepares to leave his role as CEO of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, said the fix of I-75 “malfunction junction,” tax policy initiatives, and volunteer opportunities as some of the moments he’s most proud of.

But when talking to the Dayton Daily News about different projects, he kept pausing to emphasize that he wasn’t working on these projects alone.

“I hope that your story doesn’t make it sound like we are the only ones,” Parker said, after talking about some of the Dayton Chamber’s policy work. “We love to collaborate with others.”

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Parker plans to retire July 31 after 31 years with the chamber, which represents about 2,200 businesses and organizations in a nine county area surrounding Dayton, through a mix of lobbying at different levels of government, leading economic development programs, and hosting networking events and training.

Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition, said he’s worked with Parker many times over the nearly 30 years that they’ve known each other.

“Overall we work well together and Phil has been a great person to work with over the years and he’s left a legacy in the Dayton community that I think everyone should be proud of,” Hoagland said.

Parker said one of the ways the group had an impact while he was there was through transportation initiatives, including the fix of Interstate 75’s ‘malfunction junction’ in downtown Dayton, which he said was a dangerous curve and stretch of highway. Parker said the chamber opposed moving instead toward a western beltway and instead advocated for the current design, which he said eased the curve, was comparatively cheaper, and kept interstate access to downtown.

“It’s not perfect. And it’s still got a bit of a curve. But it was horrible before. It was a travesty the way it had been built,” Parker said.

Parker has been a registered lobbyist for the region since 1990, and he and the chamber staff have lobbied in Columbus on many business related issues, from casinos to tax policy to road money to various medical marijuana measures.

However, there’s still some unfinished business, Parker said.

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Parker said the Dayton International Airport has good infrastructure, but there’s still the issue of fewer flights out of Dayton.

“I want us to try to do more to help our airport grow again and have more service for not only our business people, but those leisure travelers,” Parker said.

He said there’s more to do with public safety issues, adding “we are a military town, so we want to make sure we still support our military, the men and women in uniform. There’s a lot of work that we still need to do to support our our first responders, those people that protect us every single day.”

Parker said there’s also unfinished business when it comes to education initiatives.

“And I’d like to see us make more progress. I’d love to see more ownership from the business community and some of those education initiatives,” Parker said.

Phil received a B.A. degree in political science from Florida Atlantic University and an M.B.A. from the University of Dayton. A south Florida native, Parker said what brought him to the Dayton area was his wife and that it was a place where they both had job and graduate education opportunities.

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“He’s from way down south where the weather’s a lot warmer, but to have someone who has moved into the community, and embraced the community, and can now look back and at great accomplishments in the region, I’m personally appreciative of everything he and his family has done to make Dayton a great place live,” said Hoagland.

Parker said after retirement, he has plenty of hobbies to keep him busy. He’s a fishing enthusiast who has fished in 42 states. He used to play guitar and would like to pick it back up, and is thinking he’s going to get back into classic cars and motorcycles when he retires.

Parker said he’s not going anywhere after he retires and plans to find ways to volunteer.

“My wife is here, my kids are here, my grandkids are here. And we’re not going anywhere. It’ll just be a different phase of my life,” he said.

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