Hazel Park joins newly formed SOAR Chamber of Commerce

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published April 27, 2021

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HAZEL PARK — The city of Hazel Park is now participating in a new chamber of commerce that also comprises the cities of Ferndale and Oak Park.

Called the South Oakland Area Regional Chamber of Commerce, or SOAR, the chamber will seek to provide networking and other opportunities for the member businesses in its coverage zone.

SOAR was previously the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce. Joy Wells was the executive director of the Ferndale chamber, and now she serves as the president of SOAR, while SOAR’s board of directors is chaired by Josh Champagne, the owner of Incubizo, a co-working space in Ferndale.

“SOAR separates itself through its structure and service offering that is adapted to the unique business climate we find ourselves in,” Wells said in a statement. “We look forward to working with our businesses and communities to first recover, and then flourish. When communities unite, everyone wins!”

The concept for SOAR came about during the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Wells and Dale Vigliorolo — then the chair of the Ferndale chamber’s board of directors — saw an opportunity to better serve businesses in southern Oakland County, with more extensive networking that would provide members with increased visibility, resources and opportunities.

The work on SOAR began in early 2020 with the formation of an executive development team. Now SOAR is a reality and has a newly installed board of directors with representation split evenly between business owners and government employees. SOAR is also developing programs that will provide high school students with the chance to learn from local entrepreneurs. In addition, SOAR will continue to provide professional startup services for new and in-home business owners, as well as relief solutions as the pandemic continues.

Mike McFall is a board member with SOAR, a member of the Hazel Park City Council, and the founder and chair of the nonprofit group Main Street Hazel Park, which has been working to energize and enhance business activity in the city. This includes promoting the many unique businesses located in the John R corridor. He said in an email that he has been working with Wells and the other board members to develop the new chamber’s strategic plan.

“This is the opportune time for Hazel Park to partner with Oak Park and Ferndale to form this new chamber. The pandemic really brought the importance of community partnerships to the forefront. To survive and grow, we must partner with our neighbors whenever possible,” McFall said.

“With Joy’s vision and leadership, the new chamber’s potential is really limitless,” he continued. “The programming that is being developed and the support for our business community are critical for the region. The chamber is really just the beginning when it comes to partnering. With limited funding and shrinking budgets, we must look to our neighbors for partnerships whenever possible. Working together is key to improving not only our two cities but the region and beyond.”

He said the chamber’s greatest strength lies in the support network it provides for business, “especially now in the midst of a pandemic,” McFall said. “When most businesses temporarily shut down during 2020, many did not know where to turn for help navigating the government bureaucracy for loans and grants. They were focused on survival. The chamber plays a pivotal role in bridging that gap, allowing the business to refocus on keeping their employees and customers safe, and their doors open.”

To learn more about SOAR, including membership, visit southoaklandarearegionalcc.org, or call (248) 542-2160.

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