She may be the closest thing we have to a
‘Mayor of South Jersey.’ She runs what everyone says is the state’s top
Chamber of Commerce, and says ‘I want to win every day…but I don’t care
if anybody knows about it.’ Oh, and she used to drive a tramcar in
Wildwood during her summer vacations.
Everybody who does business in South Jersey wants to know Debra Procacci DiLorenzo. And, more to the point, Deb already seems to know almost everyone.
Neither of which is at all surprising since she’s been the face of the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey for the last 15 years.
During that time, the Chamber has more than doubled in both size and budget—growing from 800 members to more than 1,800 and seeing its budget increase by more than $1 million. In fact the “South Jersey Chamber,” as most people refer to it, is on such a roll that it was selected as the “best chamber” in the state by the weekly business newspaper, NJBIZ.
Of course, getting to be #1 doesn’t come without a lot of hard work, and as Deb is the first to acknowledge “a great team.”
Many people find it hard to think of Deb without conjuring up the parallel image of her Chamber sidekick and confidante Kathy Davis. The two met 25 years ago at SJ Gas, where Kathy was the lobbyist when Deb was heading up External Affairs. And Kathy joined Deb at the Chamber a year after she became President.
“The Chamber wouldn’t be where it is without Kathy…it’s a great feeling to know that the inner workings of the Chamber are where we want them to be.”
“She has what I don’t have. And she enables me to have the flexibility to be out of the office doing what I do,” she adds.
Speaking of being “out of the office,” a business leader who has worked closely with her at the Chamber puts it this way, “she doesn’t just seem to be everywhere, she IS everywhere.”
In fact, a lot of people think Deb DiLorenzo is the closest thing that we have to a “Mayor of South Jersey.” Which is mildly ironic since her first job—fresh out of College at Glassboro—was as a speechwriter to former Camden mayor Angelo Errichetti.
Deb describes her self as “congenial, funny (but not hilarious), and self deprecating”. But the 54-year old also admits to a core steak of competitiveness that makes her “want to win every day.” That said, she adds “I don’t care if anybody knows about it.”
Deb’s career path (not counting summers as a tramcar driver in Wildwood in the mid-70s) led her from SJ Gas, where she was Vice President for External Affairs, to the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, where she was Senior Vice President and Chief Lobbyist.
That’s where she was in 1994 when the South Jersey Chamber came looking for the successor to long-time president Jim Wallace, who had died while in office at the age of 49.
The Longport resident doesn’t mind the 80-minute commute to her office at Main Street in Voorhees every day. And she somehow manages to find all the time she needs for her family.
“If you watch her, you might think she’s totally consumed by her job,” says one of her 66 board members. “But, remarkably, she finds the time she needs” for her husband of 27 years, Joe, and her two children, Anthony, a 23-year old finance major at St. Joe’s, and daughter Angelica, a freshman at Holy Spirit High School in Absecon.
When Deb became CCSNJ President her main goal was to increase membership and today it is far and away the region’s largest business organization. It is also, Deb proudly points out, “the only Chamber in the United States to have received ISO 9001:2000 certification.”
As you might expect, Deb—who is a 1991 graduate of Leadership New Jersey—serves on many boards, including the Virtua Health Foundation, Wheaton Village, Deborah Heart & Lung Center, and Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce CEO Council for Growth.
She also serves on the board of The Richard Stockton College of NJ Foundation and the Rowan University, School of Communication Advisory Council, as well as the NJ Commission on Rationalizing Health Care Resources, the Finance Council of the Diocese of Camden.
It’s no surprise that her long service to the region has brought her a host of awards, including the Rowan University Distinguished Alumnus Award and the Walter Rand Institute South Jerseyan of the Year Award, along with recognition by both SJBT and NJBIZ as one of the region’s and the state’s top “Movers and Shakers.”
She has also been recognized by the National Association of Women Business Owners-South Jersey Chapter as Business Advocate of the Year, named one of New Jersey’s 25 Women of Influence, cited as a Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of America-Camden County Council, honored by Boy Scouts of America-Camden County Chapter with its Distinguished Citizen Award, and been the recipient of the Executive Women of New Jersey Leadership Award.
With all that community service under her belt, it’s not a surprise that if she could compose her own epitaph it would read “I was born to help and I did.”
Deb earned a B.A. in Communications in 1976 and an M.A. in Corporate Communications (magna cum laude) 11 years later—both from Rowan.
But she also remembers having difficulty with reading in the first grade and credits her experience with the book “The Sun Also Rises” for letting her know that she “liked to read.”
Now a self-proclaimed “avid reader,” she includes John Sandford, David Baldacci, Lee Child, and Jonathan Kellerman among her many favorites. And, she adds, she’s also looking forward to sitting down with Michael Smerconish’s latest book.
She loves South Jersey but agrees that the region sometimes seems to show an “inferiority complex” and also carries a little bit of “a chip on its shoulder.”
If Deb could invite any five people (living or deceased) to a hypothetical dinner party, at least one of her guests might surprise you. Three are family members who have passed away—her dad, Louis Procacci (who died 32 years ago), and Mary Lou and Chris Hoffman, her sister and brother in law (who died in 2008 and 1998, respectively).
The other two—Tom Selleck and JFK.
As for the person whose job she would most like to have that would be Mario Batali (aka Molto Mario).