New executive director starts at Chamber of Commerce

Young blood brings fresh enthusiasm to role

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published February 28, 2011


MADISON HEIGHTS/HAZEL PARK — The Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce has a new person in charge — and with it an injection of young blood.

At 21 years old, Shelby Township resident Alan Horn has been hired for the full-time position of executive director, responsible for bringing together local businesses under the chamber banner, and in doing so, helping them all with professional networking, educational opportunities, member-to-member discounts and more.

“I was very happy to hear I was offered the position,” Horn said. “I graduated a year early from school” — having attended Western Michigan for three years — “and had an initial concern that my age would offset the experience and ideas I had for the chamber.”

But Horn’s worries were unfounded, said Chamber President Paul Schoenbeck, 43, of Troy, a general practice attorney at Hazel Park-based Clark & Schoenbeck P.C. In fact, Horn’s youth was to his advantage.

“He’s a younger man with a lot of energy and a lot of creativity,” Schoenbeck said. “He has a confidence about him, a gentleness about him, so he won’t overrun someone who’s considering becoming a member of the chamber. He’s a very likeable individual.”

Describing the role of executive director as “the engine that makes the boat run,” Schoenbeck said that from November through January, the chamber’s board of directors received more than 30 applications for the spot left vacant when Rick Busler resigned.

Eight candidates were interviewed and narrowed down to a final three. Once selected, Horn got to work in early February. He was aided in his transition by Mary Sames, retired executive director of 25 years, who taught him the way things work and the business culture of the community he was serving.

Though he’s young, Horn has a wealth of experience to help him hit the ground running, including four internships for profits and nonprofits alike.

He used his PR savvy as an “image brander” at Newmann’s Bookshoppe, a small Catholic bookstore in downtown Kalamazoo. As assistant director for Western Dance Project, touring company of Western Michigan’s Department of Dance, he scheduled performances and cultivated interest in the arts in grades K-12.

Horn organized a PR campaign for The Wesley Foundation of Kalamazoo and helped raise $1.3 million for facility renovations. He also worked for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night fundraiser, planning walks that brought in $683,000.

Now, Horn looks to improve the prospects of local businesses by showing them the benefits of Chamber membership. To that end, he has set for himself some lofty goals.

“Membership recruitment and retention is the cornerstone to the chamber; without membership all of the chamber’s goals and programs can’t be done,” Horn said. “I would like to see membership increase; currently, the chamber has a little more than 300 members; and I would like to bring that number up to 500 by this time next year.”

He hopes to accomplish this by strengthening member-to-member discounts for services, such as Office Depot, AAA, Verizon, cable/Internet, advertising costs, etc., and by growing attendance at networking events, such as golf outings, coffee chats, auctions and more, all of which are great for referrals.

More partnerships with other chambers in Metro Detroit are in order, as are plans to implement new programs done by out-of-state chambers, designed to encompass mass advertising efforts and develop repeat business.

“I think the chamber members will really benefit from the chamber creating the buzz about their business (that) will help grow their customer base,” Horn said.

The chamber will also continue its involvement at community events such as the Around the Globe in Madison Heights taste fest and cultural show, as well as its support of local school districts with such endeavors as the teacher mini-grants.

Schoenbeck said Horn’s goals are true to the spirit of the Chamber.

“The purpose of the chamber is tri-fold — community, business and schools — and basically our goal, the current board of directors, is to advance those purposes even more, to really help the communities, bring businesses in here, help the school districts in whatever way we can, and that’s what we’re really looking to do,” Schoenbeck said.

“We had a good thing before, and we just want to make it better,” he said. “We have the utmost confidence in (Horn’s) ability to carry the chamber forward and improve it.”

For more information about the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce, call 248-542-5010.