WHEELING - Delegate Erikka Storch is the new chairwoman of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, and she plans to start an initiative to assist women entering the business world.
Storch, R-Ohio, takes over for past Chairman John Culler, and she is only the second female to lead the Wheeling chamber.
Patricia Valentino-Kutsch served as chairwoman "in the late 1970s or early 1980s," according to Terry Sterling, chamber president.
"We have pretty good female representation on the board, and a fair number of female members," Storch said. "I'm not sure why the delay occurred."
Storch, 42, is currently in her second two-year term in the House of Delegates.
She is the chief financial officer at her family's steel fabricating construction business, Ohio Valley Steel.
She holds a master's degree in business administration from Wheeling Jesuit University. She and her husband, Tom, have three children.
As chairwoman of the Wheeling chamber, Storch said she would like to build on an effort already started by Sterling and reach out to women wanting to start their own businesses.
The chamber can serve as a networking resource when they need assistance, she said.
"Sometimes it seems life gets in the way and women are not able to enter the work force," Storch said. "In some cases, the woman is still primarily the caregiver and there is still some chauvinism is some sectors of society - where men aren't used to being that familiar with women in the workplace. I come from a man's world. I've seen a lot."
She added she also has "grown up a lot" while working in the business world, and the skills she has learned have benefited her in politics.
"I definitely have more spine than I would if I were not in business," Storch said. "I'm definitely a stronger person, and probably more stubborn. I would have never imagined myself in public office a few years ago. But after 17 years in structural steel fabrication, it definitely postured me for a run in politics."