Idaho Falls Chamber's new CEO outlines goals for the future - East Idaho News
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Idaho Falls Chamber’s new CEO outlines goals for the future

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IDAHO FALLS – The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce is under new leadership.

Paul Baker was hired as the chamber’s new president and CEO on May 1. In a conversation with, Baker describes his first month on the job as extremely busy.

“I’ve been out to all different kinds of events — ribbon-cuttings, Out of the Box lunches, various individual meetings with significant influencers in the area,” Baker says.

The 43-year-old Irishman replaces Chip Schwarze, who abruptly resigned in September. The reason for his departure was never specified. He had been in the position since March 2017.

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Baker brings with him a slough of entrepreneurial experience. Originally from Dublin, he has vested interests in several resorts throughout the UK. He also facilitates acquisitions of “large projects” like soccer clubs in England, oil rigs and bikes.

As a kid, he grew up working at a theme park in England owned by his father.

“The biggest project I ever worked on was the 2012 Olympic Games (in London). I led the infrastructure and logistics (that year) — everything from the torch relay to the events. That (gave me experience) working with the public sector and private governing bodies, politicians and leaders,” Baker explains.

Baker’s experience in multiple industries is the reason he was selected as the chamber’s new CEO.

“I have a good understanding of what businesses need in order to be sustainable and profitable,” he says. “The board was looking for someone who would ‘level up’ and raise the bar in terms of where we want the chamber to go.”

He and his wife, Lauren, moved to Idaho Falls two years ago. The COVID-19 lockdown was “pretty strict” in England, Paul says. Lauren developed some health challenges during that time and they came here to be closer to family.

“We’d never been to Idaho Falls,” says Paul. “We packed our stuff up, jumped on a plane, took our dog and moved here.”

While some might be critical of the Chamber’s decision to hire someone who’s not from Idaho Falls, Baker says he provides a “fresh set of eyes” and can bring a “blank canvas approach” to the position.

baker pic
Baker poses for a photo on the greenbelt next to the Snake River in downtown Idaho Falls. | Rett Nelson,

Baker praises the “fantastic team” he inherited and during his first few weeks, it’s been a pleasant surprise for him to learn how genuine it is in supporting local businesses.

“‘If there’s anything you need at any time of day, whether it’s to do business or not … (we’re here for you),'” chamber ambassadors tell business owners at ribbon-cuttings, according to Baker. “They know there’s support right on their doorstep and that’s really endearing. That’s something I’m not used to seeing … and that’s what I love about this job.”

Since stepping into the role, Baker’s realized many people don’t understand the value of having a strong chamber of commerce. That’s one reason he wanted the job and he’s spent a lot of time educating people about the role it plays in the community.

One purpose of the chamber of commerce is to provide a network of resources for local businesses to grow and thrive. Another purpose is to be an advocate for businesses to government officials.

Overall, Baker is pleased with the way city leaders and state lawmakers support private business. Aside from the way the COVID-19 pandemic was managed in 2020, Baker says most legislation has had a positive impact on the state’s business sector.

Baker wants to ensure local businesses have more control and a larger voice in political debates.

Above all, Baker is focused on finding solutions and putting them into action.

He says one of the greatest needs going forward is more collaboration with schools. Baker wants to make sure there is a talent pool available for prospective business owners and that students have access to “educational pathways” that match the employer demand.

“Almost a third of kids in our high schools are (graduating) without the right reading and writing standards they need to get good jobs,” says Baker.

Baker is also supportive of projects benefitting the local economy. He cites expansions at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport as one example.

“A larger airfield means larger planes. Larger planes means there’s room for freight so we can export our product out of Idaho Falls airport at some point … rather than having all our product trucked to Utah or sent over the Canadian border and lose all those tax dollars,” he says.

Baker is excited about a rebranding effort for the Chamber. A new name and logo will be unveiled during a public event on May 31 at the Westbank Convention Center. It’s happening at noon. Lunch will be provided.

Business owners with questions and concerns are invited to visit the Chamber’s website or call (208) 523-1010.