For His Next Act: First Night’s Schlosser Comes to Morris Chamber
Whoever coined the phrase “hit the ground running” must have had Craig Schlosser in mind. It’s what he has done for a dozen years at First Night Morris County. And it’s how he started his new gig this month as vice president of economic development for the Morris County Chamber of Commerce.
“He has this almost superhuman ability to get things done and to stay calm,” said Meghan Hunscher, president and CEO of the Chamber. “Already, he’s bringing in new members. We’re really excited to have him,” she said.
In the newly created post, Schlosser, 38, will tackle a wide range of projects for the business community. He also will ramp up the Chamber’s nonprofit Morris County Economic Development Alliance, promoting partnerships among the Chamber, area businesses and Morris County government, Hunscher said.
“It’s really about nurturing and creating opportunities for others, and allowing them to excel…I know I can make an impact,” said Schlosser, who has spent the last seven years at the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Center, where he served as vice president.
The former Morristown High School (’02) quarterback learned the Morris County business landscape during stints as a regional sales rep for Coca Cola, executive director of the Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce, and president of First Night Morris. That nonprofit just celebrated its 30th New Year’s Eve of family friendly entertainment in Morristown.
A dozen years ago, Schlosser and his high school friend Michael Schmidt shored up the financial footing of this holiday institution, one of the few remaining First Nights in the country. Schlosser kept it alive during the pandemic by pivoting to a virtual program and, for last month’s edition, pulling off a hybrid format just as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 surged.
(Full disclosure: Morristown Green serves on the First Night advisory board.)
His cool, organized leadership under fire impressed First Night Chairman Walter Deutsch, a retired banker.
“We were making changes on that program for performers on the afternoon prior to that event,” Deutsch said.
Schlosser understands “where the moving parts come together,” Deutsch said. “He keeps you focused on the task at hand, whether it takes six weeks or you have to get it done in two hours.”
He also sees the big picture: Schlosser created a year-round First Night internship program, and beefed up the entertainment roster by adding a film festival.
A good listener who showers praise on volunteers, Schlosser has an uncanny knack for brokering collaborations, and for recruitment, added Deutsch.
They met via the Middlesex Chamber. Schlosser’s enthusiasm for First Night Morris persuaded Deutsch to come aboard, even though he lives in Somerset and had not heard of the event. Appealing to Deutsch’s love of music, Schlosser sold him: “This is what I can really fall in love with.”
“He is passionate about the arts and their ability to unite communities,” said Dr. Lynn Siebert of the nonprofit Morris Arts.
Siebert has booked First Night performers for years, and she was an advisor for the most recent installment. Schlosser is creative, takes constructive criticism well, and seeks input from multiple sources, she said. Above all, he “treats people with respect and always strives to improve at his work,” Siebert said. With an energy level best described as super-caffeinated, Schlosser intends to continue leading First Night.
‘DID YOU HEAR THE ONE ABOUT … ‘
Jane Armstrong, executive director of the Morris-Sussex-Warren Workforce Development Board, has worked closely with Schlosser on First Night and at the Middlesex Chamber. She considers him as a “visionary leader” who grasps the importance of “tying workforce and economic policy together.” Out of the gate, Schlosser is helping devise an economic sustainability plan for the tri-county region, Armstrong said.
“Craig is innovative, collaborative and is a natural convener and facilitator,” she said.
Hunscher, CEO of the 750-member Morris Chamber, which marked its centennial during the pandemic, said the health crisis slowed her search for someone to assume her county Economic Development Corp. duties. They deserved full-time attention, she said, so she could devote herself fully to Chamber outreach and events.
The new position demanded “a unique skill set. You have to be very versatile. I was waiting for the right person. And he came along,” Hunscher said of Schlosser.
While First Night student interns are “extremely polite” in response to Schlosser’s jokes, Deutsch annually reminds the Bedminster resident: “Leave the humor to the professional comedians we hire on New Year’s Eve.’” Schlosser is keeping that in mind for his next act.
“As long as I don’t tell too many jokes, we’re in great shape,” he said.
He understands business and government relationships, partnerships and finances, Hunscher said. In Middlesex, Schlosser promoted tourism and minority-owned enterprises– areas of keen interest to the Morris Chamber, Hunscher noted.
“I was really honored when she hired me to take on the EDC, because that’s the job she did before. When someone hires you to take their former job, that’s really a vote of confidence,” Schlosser said.
The Morris Plains native said he is thrilled to work with Hunscher and the Chamber’s board to forge “strong partnerships…for a better tomorrow.” Only one piece of Schlosser’s toolkit needs an upgrade, according to Deutsch.
Article and Photos courtesy of Kevin Coughlin with MorristownGreen.com