Novi economic development director heads Troy chamber

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published May 22, 2013

When Farmington Hills resident Ara Topouzian graduated from Wayne State University in 1993 with his bachelor’s degree in journalism, he found that jobs in that industry were tough to find.

So he started a couple of small businesses in Farmington Hills, including a music business, American Recording Productions. He said he got involved in the Farmington/Farmington Hills Chamber of Commerce not to promote his businesses, but to be involved with other business owners. He served as program director for the Farmington chamber, then president and CEO. After that, he served as economic development director for the city of Novi.

From a field of 65 candidates, the Troy Chamber of Commerce, with 700 members, selected Topouzian to be their new president and CEO, the position most recently held by Michele Hodges, who left the chamber in January.

“I saw an opportunity in Troy that interested me,” he said. “I learned quite a bit in Novi and had a very good experience. I was able to make a difference.”

He said he didn’t want his next career move to be to another city.

Topouzian said he regards the Troy chamber, one of the largest in the state, as among the top in Oakland County.

“I was looking for a new challenge. I decided to throw my hat in the ring,” he said.

John Tagle — an architect, a  Troy Planning Commission member and chairman of the Troy Chamber Executive Search committee — explained that the Troy chamber employed a search firm that received 64 applicants, some from out of state. The firm winnowed the list down to 16 and then presented the committee with six. From the six, the committee selected two finalists to make a presentation to the committee at large that consisted of 19 people.

Tagle said that while Topouzian’s experience stood out, he was also a good presenter.

“He’s the kind of guy you can sit down and engage with very easily,” Tagle said.

Tagle said that he, on behalf of the chamber, has been meeting with Troy city leaders once or twice each month to help to identify possible revenue streams to offset operational costs at the Troy transit center, currently under construction.

Topouzian said he considers transportation a regional issue and a “big problem.”

“For Troy to have that capability — I think it is fantastic,” he said.

“I have a unique background coming into this,” he said of his experience as a business owner and his economic development experience at the state and county levels.

“I know how local government works,” he added. “My focus will be on the Troy business community, and strengthening the chamber and helping business owners.” 

“We think he’s (Topouzian) going to do a great job for the chamber and take us to the next level,” Tagle said.

Peter Arvant, 2013 Troy Chamber board chair, said that Topouzian’s experience as a longtime business owner and his knowledge of chambers of commerce and economic development made him uniquely qualified to help Troy’s businesses grow and connect with each other.

“I’ve heard from Troy city staff and members of the City Council,” Topouzian said. “Everybody has been very welcoming.”

Topouzian begins his duties with the Troy chamber June 3.