Peter Burke begins as leader of Nantucket Chamber
The Nantucket Chamber of Commerce welcomed its new executive director on Monday.
New Hampshire native Peter Burke has returned to the island from Portsmouth. For 14 years he has worked for Nantucket-based Cisco Brewers, most recently as an operating partner.
Burke begins as executive director of the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce ahead of the island’s anticipated summer season.
Patrick Flanary: Peter, you've just moved to Nantucket again. You've had a unique perspective of Nantucket from the outside. What's the biggest change you've noticed while you were away?
Peter Burke, executive director, Nantucket Chamber of Commerce: It just seems like the island has really grown, new businesses are opening, which is encouraging. Obviously there's more building going on. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That depends on how you look at it.
PF: It doesn't get much more unaffordable than a place like Nantucket. How do we make sure that the year-round workforce can afford to keep living there? And for a guy just moving back to the island, what did you encounter as you looked for your new place?
PB: The challenges of housing I don't think are going to be solved by one organization. Nantucket has options for affordable housing and ways to get into home ownership. That's out of the Chamber's purview. I think where it does come into play is of course the businesses on Nantucket are always looking for housing for their employees. And that's where we hope to add our perspective as a group, to say, "This is what the Chamber businesses feel are their struggles." Is it a lack of workers which is due to a lack of housing? How can we work together with all the island businesses and organizations? Friends that I had from the island from when I first lived here had a room in a house with an opening. That was really advantageous for me to know someone who had a room available.
PF: There is a fear that many temporary visa workers won't be processed in time to return by Memorial Day. How do you assess the summer right now for Nantucket?
PB: Ferry reservations are booked and hotels are busy. The island has a bustling year-round community as well, which is one of the areas the Chamber hopes to develop in the next couple of years: How do we cater the Chamber's benefits to the year-round island businesses? From the tourism standpoint, there's an undeniable tourism aspect, and the businesses benefit from the influx of tourism. Making sure they are fully staffed, it's a crystal ball that I don't have any vision into. I think it's going to be a collection of things and making sure that everyone is communicating when there are house openings and available rental units — to make sure that, if there are opportunities for employers to put employees into housing, we fill those gaps.
PF: What sparked your interest in leading the Chamber? You're coming at a crucial time, with a month before the season gets going.
PB: Daffodil Festival is two weeks away [April 22-24], and I'm joining a really talented group. In the interview process I met a group that I really wanted to join and hope to add some benefit to. Working with more than one business is always exciting, it scratches a lot of different areas of the brain and keeps me interested. I know I work better when there are challenges, and I can work to solve them with a talented group of people.
PF: Coming back to the island, what's circling through your mind as far as priorities?
PB: The priority is absolutely listening to the  member businesses. Not every business is a member of the Chamber, so I think it's two-fold: making sure that we're addressing the needs of the business community of Chamber members, and enticing other businesses to join. It might be in the form of making sure they have resources available for the current pandemic. It's making sure that we have the healthiest and most robust business community that we can.
PF: You've been working for Cisco Brewers for a long time. What's your favorite beer right now?
PB: That's a no-brainer: Whale's Tale Pale Ale is the security-blanket beer. With market research, I was forced to try as many beers as I could, and you never go wrong with an ice-cold Whale's Tale. It's always good.