The Chamber of Commerce is first and foremost a means for connecting our members – to each other, to government, to information, to potential clients. Recently, we created a new online tool that will help members connect to their local business district organizations and governments. Jump right to the tool by clicking here.
Like most communities, the Village of Oak Park’s business landscape is an amalgamation of neighborhood districts, retail corridors, downtown areas, office buildings, B2B associations and B2C focused organizations. Because of the size, density and diversity of the community, Oak Park has multiple organizations that promote and facilitate commerce and the flow of information. While the Chamber of Commerce focuses on all types of business across communities and industries, neighborhood business districts tend to focus on issues and events specific to their micro-geographies.
The largest of Oak Park’s business districts is Downtown Oak Park, the area in and around the western portion Lake Street where it meets Marion St and Harlem Ave. This area is designated a “Special Service Area” (SSA) and has a specific taxing arrangement in place which funds the marketing and events managed by the Downtown Oak Park, the DBA name of the Harlem Lake Marion Corporation. The eleven other business districts vary in size and organization. Existing district organizations are volunteer-based, and range from the venerable Hemingway District (known for decades as the Avenue District) managed by a volunteer Board to the much smaller “districts” without formal organizations.
To facilitate communication between the districts and between the Village of Oak Park and the business community, an informal “Business Association Council” took shape. This group meets monthly at Village Hall (the fourth Wednesday, 8am) to discuss topics of interest and concern.
Although the BAC structure and BAC meetings are informal and open to all Oak Park businesses, often business owners do not know how to “plug in.” Perhaps they are unaware that the business district “governance” structure exists; perhaps they are unaware who to turn to within their local district. Perhaps there is a missing link beween the district representative and the local business. In addition, as the BAC is informal, there are no published minutes that can be shared with businesses or district representatives that are unable to attend the monthly meetings.
The Fix – Chamber’s Business District Webpage
To correct this, the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce created a webpage that lists all the contacts for the various business districts in Oak Park. The webpage also contains an intake form – business owners can submit issues, questions or general input directly to the BAC by filling out the online form. The Chamber will facilitate getting the submitted information to the right person, either in the relevant business district, or in the Village government.
The Chamber Executive Director attends the BAC meetings and takes notes of the proceedings and has begun posting them on the Business District Webpage. Although these are unofficial notes (not formal minutes), the notes list the topics that were discussed and the relevant contact people. The notes provide an additional source of information for member businesses.
Contacts for River Forest, Forest Park and Austin can also be found on the page. The page will evolve to meet the needs of member businesses. Anyone with suggestions to improve the page should contact Cathy in the Chamber office.