The Oak Park Economic Development Corporation (OPEC) has gained a new economic development manager in Eric Mazelis, who previously worked for J.P. Morgan Chase as a business banking relationship manager.
“It’s been awesome,” said Mazelis of his new position. “I think it’s an interesting time to jump on board.”
Mazelis joined the OPEDC staff Feb. 22 and while still fairly new, he brings his experience in working with small businesses, which he acquired during his time working for the non-profit lending network Accion Chicago.
“It’s a nonprofit organization that provides small business loans to entrepreneurs all over but really with a focus on the West Side of Chicago, underserved communities, people with low access to credit or damaged credit, that sort of thing,” said Mazelis of Accion, which has since been renamed Allies for Community Lending.
In a convenient twist, Mazelis actually knows his OPEDC predecessor, having served with Viktor Schrader on the associate board of Accion Chicago.
“I’m still on the associate board and that’s where I was introduced to Viktor and got an understanding of what the EDC does,” said Mazelis.
The always affable Schrader left Oak Park right before the new year to serve in a similar position in Massachusetts.
While working as a community lender with Accion, Mazelis assisted businessowners through the idea phase and startup phases – something OPEDC Executive Director John Lynch believes will come in handy in navigating the economic impacts of COVID-19.
“Eric’s background in small business lending and assistance will prove invaluable as we emerge from the COVID-related recession of 2020,” said Lynch. “Helping small businesses and entrepreneurs with access to capital, resources and local market intelligence will be critical in the remainder of 2021 and 2022, and that’s where Eric’s experience and energy will be a huge benefit to us and the community.”
At J.P. Morgan Chase, Mazelis worked with clients in the range of $10 to $20 million in sales. His experience working with businesses across the financial spectrum, he believes will prove useful to the OPEDC.
“That will be beneficial to this role – working with mom-and-pop shops in Oak Park to working with larger developers who want to bring in new projects,” Mazelis said.
As economic development manager of the OPEDC, Mazelis will work existing and prospective Oak Park businesses, as well as real estate stakeholders and local organizations.
Since moving to the village in June, Mazelis has already begun exploring Oak Park’s many offerings, including Scoville Park, which he called his “favorite place.” He hopes to attend the park’s concert series this summer, should COVID-19 subside enough to allow it.
“What I’m most excited for in this role is the chance to see my work tangibly reflected in the places I’m closest to,” Mazelis said.
For that reason, he was very attracted to the opportunity to work with the OPEDC and jumped at the chance to submit himself for consideration.
“It’s really rare to have this chance to work in economic development in the community you live,” he said. “That’s what made me really excited to apply and get hired.”
Coming out of the pandemic, Mazelis has optimistic views for the future of Oak Park’s business community.
“I think 2021 is going to be potentially a big year, just because a lot of people were incubating their ideas in the past year,” he said.
He believes people are ready to turn ideas into realities.
“I’m personally really hopeful for 2021 and beyond for these opportunities for new businesses.”