Getting to Know You: A Q&A with PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein

Luke Bernstein is president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. A seasoned financial, government, and public policy professional, Luke came to the organization in June 2022 with more than 20 years of experience in the public and private sectors.

Before leading the PA Chamber, Luke was most recently executive vice president, chief operations and technology officer at Orrstown Financial Services.  He had served as Orrstown’s corporate spokesperson since 2017.

He was previously senior vice president of external affairs at the Pennsylvania Bankers Association from 2015 to 2017 and deputy chief of staff for former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett from 2011 to 2015.

In addition to his executive leadership roles in the private sector and state government, Luke has experience working at the federal level, as a former appointed advisor in the Administration of President George W. Bush and as an aide in the U.S. Senate. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and policy studies from Dickinson College, where he also served as an adjunct professor.

Luke also completed the Duke Leadership Program at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.  He is a very active member of his community, serving on numerous boards and as a youth sports coach.

Congratulations on your appointment as president and CEO of the PA Chamber! What does this appointment mean to you at this moment in your career and at this time in the PA Chamber’s 106-year history?

I love Pennsylvania – I grew up here and love everything about my home state.  All of my siblings and parents still call Pennsylvania home.  The opportunity to serve the Chamber and state in such a critical role is not only exciting, but truly an opportunity to make a difference.  PA has so much to offer, and I am humbled to play a part in helping to shape our state’s future.

This is also very personal to me – I discovered that my grandfather was a former chair of the board of the PA Chamber.  I feel an enormous sense of pride continuing his legacy at an organization that was so important to me, him, and our state.

Much of your experience is in the financial sector but you also served as a deputy chief of staff in Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration. Having worked in the public and private sectors, what parallels have you found in both these sectors in terms of the best ways to get things done?

Life is all about people and relationships.  So, whether it’s the public or private sector, you need to be able to work with a diverse group of people that may share different backgrounds and have different ideas about how to get things done.  Compromise and collaboration transcend all sectors and is the key ingredient to achieving meaningful results.  Nothing big ever happens on its own, and being willing to work towards a common goal is transferrable to any industry or sector.

You took the reins at the Chamber while our organization was working in a bipartisan fashion with lawmakers and Gov. Wolf on a monumental tax reform package that has included the reduction of the state’s uncompetitive CNI and other reforms that are improving Pennsylvania’s competitive advantage. How has that helped energize your first months here, and how do you plan to keep that momentum going in the months and years to come?

Reducing the CNI is a huge win for Pennsylvania.  And, the Chamber played a significant role in turning a policy initiative into enacted law.  Pennsylvania has so many great attributes, but we need a more competitive business climate.  The reduction of our CNI is a giant first step – something the PA Chamber has advocated and prioritized for nearly 30 years.  With this momentum, it is important that we continue to work together on permitting and regulatory reform in order to drive job creation and investment.  The PA Chamber, and specifically my predecessor and friend Gene Barr, led this effort and spent years advocating for this important reform.  I am thankful for Gene’s leadership on this issue, and friendship as I transition into this key post.

What do you foresee for the PA Chamber in terms of continuing to expanding our reach and impact into communities statewide?

Since our founding in 1916, we serve as the Statewide Voice of Business and work to promote job creation and strengthen our business climate so we can improve the lives of Pennsylvanians.  Currently, we have a tremendous organization.  That affords us the opportunity to build from strength, especially in terms of advocacy as we look to expand our grassroots advocacy, enhance our fundraising, strengthen our foundation, and further drive issue advocacy.  Now is the time to improve our state’s business climate, and the PA Chamber is well positioned to leverage, and enhance, our platform to do just that. 

Speaking of community, you’ve made a measurable impact on your community – serving on numerous boards and as a youth sports coach. How have those experiences helped bring to you to this point in your career as a servant leader?  

I am committed to leaving our community stronger than the one I inherited.  I learned this core value from my mom, who essentially worked three full-time jobs – mom, real estate broker, and community activist.  Whether serving on the board of our local hospital or church, stepping in to sponsor a baseball team so our area could have a second team, or working to help disadvantaged children, my mom supported countless causes that supported our local community.  For example, my mom was recognized for donating more than 10 gallons of blood – yes, that is a lot of blood as she gave every opportunity despite never needing any herself!  I have tried to follow in her footsteps by supporting my community through service on local boards, raising funds for charitable efforts, and coaching our boys in youth sports.  My wife Meg lost her father to cancer at an early age, so we worked tirelessly to raise monies to fund a research grant in his honor.  We were proud to help local families struggling the same way her dad did, and became a passion for us where we not only served on the board together, but co-chaired the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Executive Leadership Team.  I also enjoy coaching my boys in youth sports – we learn so many valuable lessons from sports.  Coaching through perseverance and positivity and helping to guide my boys and their teammates through important aspects of life is incredibly rewarding.  I guess in general, it is finding areas we are passionate about and contributing to efforts that improve those outcomes.  

Who is your hero?

I talked about my mom and her profound impact on my life, and my dad was equally important. My dad is my hero and have learned so much from him.  “Always keep moving forward;” “Bad news doesn’t get better with age;” “Most problems can be solved, or soothed, with ice cream;” “Always remember where you came from;” “Treat everyone with respect – whether you think they deserve it or not;” “The is no substitute in life for hard work;” “When in doubt, eat!”   These are just a few quotes my dad would drill into us as we were growing up.  Born in the midst of the Great Depression, my dad started working at a very young age – by the age of ten, he was working in various jobs before or after school in order to help support his family, including stocking shelves at a small grocery store, serving as a milk runner on his uncle’s dairy route, and working at his uncle’s bakery.  He instilled the value of hard work into me and my siblings at a very young age as he worked tirelessly to support our family.  With his father working as a bus driver and mother a factory worker, he was the first in his family to go to college and always stressed the importance of combining education and hard work as the great equalizers in America.  He worked tirelessly to give us opportunities that he did not have growing up. 

Lastly, what do you and your family like to do for fun?

We have two very active little boys, Ben and Will, that keep our family very busy!  Between our boys, and pets (dog, two guinea pigs, and fish), our house is usually a circus! But, this makes life interesting and fun; and, we wouldn’t want it any other way!  Our free time is generally occupied by serving as professional Uber/Lyft drivers shuttling our boys to sports and activities.  We love the beach, being outdoors, sports, reading, and music.