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Chamber Profession Mourns Passing of Sally Haas

Published Monday, December 31, 2012

It is with great sadness that ACCE announces the passing of Sally Haas, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Airport Area (PA) Chamber of Commerce. Haas died on December 27 at the age of 58.

In an article in the Pittsburgh Business Times, Haas was remembered by Dewitt Peart, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, as "[t]he go-to person in the airport region. If you wanted to get something done, get Sally involved. She brought energy and leadership to the table."

Funeral prayer will be held at 9:15 a.m. Monday, with a Mass of Christian Burial celebrated at 10 a.m. in St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin Church in Pittsburgh.

Below is a statement the Chamber released.

The Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce announces with deep sorrow the passing of its CEO and President, Sally Haas, unexpectedly on December 27, 2012 at the age of 58. Haas started with the Chamber in March, 1998 as its Membership Director, becoming President and CEO in October, 1998. During her time as President, the Chamber grew from 800 members to the current 1,100 members.

Haas’ work touched so many aspects of the airport community, focusing not just on the business members, but on other areas of the community that affected those businesses.

Haas teamed with the 911th and 99th Regional Readiness Command to develop the Honorary Commanders Association, whose aim is to get the word out to the community-at-large about the vital role and economic impact the military has in this region's economy. The program partnership now includes representatives of the 911th Airlift Wing, 171st Air Refueling Wing, 316th Sustainment Command, and members of the business community at large. Haas had been serving as the state representative for the Air Force Civic Leaders program and co-chaired the local committee seeking to ensure the continuation of the 911th Airlift Wing in our community.

Haas’ work has strengthened and grown the Chamber's relationship with such groups as the Char-West Council of Governments, Tri-County Area Partnership, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, Southwestern PA Planning Commission, and Allegheny County Department of Economic Development. Haas was an active proponent for economic development opportunities in the region.

Haas participated with the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance on business investment missions to Sheffield and Manchester, England, which resulted in recruitment of a company from the United Kingdom to the United States which was located for a time in the Chamber offices. Using the Airport Area Chamber's Enterprise Foundation as its start-up location, Haas assisted not only that international business, but other local entrepreneurs in their start-up phase.

As part of the Chamber's ongoing efforts to create global outreach opportunities, Haas led several outreach missions to China, with close to 200 people on the tours over the last four years. The 2012 trip was the most challenging, as the travelers became stranded for an extra week because of the disruptions in air travel caused by superstorm Sandy 

To help local entrepreneurs, Haas became a certified Fast Trac Instructor and served as a mentor of the entrepreneur round table known as E.L.I.T.E., which targets support for start-up companies. In 2008, Haas completed a Regionalism & Sustainable Development Fellowship with the Ford Foundation and the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) association under a grant awarded by the Hillman Foundation.

Not limiting her work to businesses, however, but to the entire community, Haas brought the Choices program to the airport corridor and the Chamber currently offers that program in ten school districts in the Chamber footprint. The program uses a hands-on approach to make middle school students realize that there are long-term effects to the choices they make now. The goal is to prevent drop-outs and feedback from the students has shown that those who were considering dropping out have reconsidered that decision. 

Those of you who have attended Chamber events know how informative and enjoyable the events have been, but few recognize the number of hours of planning and careful thought Haas gave to making those events memorable for the membership. Whether it was a breakfast briefing with government leaders, an educational program on marketing, the Summer Gala at Roselea Farms or our most recent Jingle Fest, Haas' mark touched everything from the decorations, to the food served, to the prizes offered.

Haas was selected by SBN as one of the first recipients of the Pittsburgh Pacesetter Awards, recognizing her for her efforts on behalf of transportation and growth in the Pittsburgh region. She also served on County Executive Dan Onorato's transportation task force, and chaired the SPC Public Participation Panel.

Haas served as the board Chair of the PA Association of Chamber Professionals, and headed the Southwestern PA Chamber Executives division.

Haas is survived by her husband Allan L. Haas, her daughters Kristen Haas and Jill Kipper, son-in-law Knut Kipper, brother James Obringer and his wife Susan, sister Amy Meyers and her husband Edward, nephew Tommy Meyers and niece Jenna Meyers.

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