Darien Chamber Focus Group Talks Economic Development
Local business people offered their ideas on building Darien's business community.
Members of the local business community gathered Tuesday at the Darien Police Department for a focus group aimed at growing business through the Darien Chamber of Commerce.
As the participants shared their thoughts on bolstering the local economy, a surprising theme emerged among the suggestions: compassion.
“I think we’ve got to do a lot of different things to keep this economy and people going. Small businesses have really been hit hard,” chamber Chairman of the Board Mary Kay Slowikowski said.
Nearly all the ideas bounced among the group centered on the idea of helping businesses through human connections.
Attorney Elizabeth Bacon, of the Naperville firm Brooks, Tarulis & Tibble, suggested an internship program that would connect young people looking to get a foot in the door with businesses who need an extra hand.
“It’s a way to make our chamber more relevant to young people who are going to be growing up in the community as young professionals,” she said.
Even established business people could benefit from a mentorship program, real estate broker Joan Wayman said.
She suggested holding chamber events that feature speakers from “power players” in the community such as Wight and Company that have a national reach.
Bigdogz Marketing owner Mary Borse suggested a cash mob: an event where people coordinate through social media to patronize a specific business at the same time.
Similarly, a scavenger hunt would bring people to a wider swath of business over an afternoon, she said.
“There’s a lot of sympathy for the small business right now, and we should take advantage of it,” said Edward Jones financial advisor Tim Werner.
Encouraging people to support local businesses will also help build a stronger identity for Darien, he said.
“It’s important to invest in your community,” he said. “That will make your community that much stronger.”
Recently the chamber has been talking with the Darien Historical Society about things the chamber did to promote business during Darien’s early days, chamber President Clare Bongiovanni said.
Years ago, the chamber sponsored Darien Days in the week leading up to the city holiday tree lighting, she said. Such an event, in conjunction with a holiday expo, would be a way to bring more awareness to Darien’s business community, she said.
The original chamber had a mission statement and tagline that the group has moved away from in recent years. But, Bongiovanni said, it could be something worth revisiting.
Forging an identity for the city, Wayman said, is key.
“It’s that want to be part of something,” she said. “There’s got to be something because we all really like to be here.”
The conversation about Darien’s business community will continue at an economic forum scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 8 at Indian Prairie Public Library. City officials and chamber members will talk about efforts to invigorate business in Darien.
For more information on the forum, call 630-968-0004 or visit www.darienchamber.com.