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Getting Down to Business with the OPRF Chamber

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By Cathy Yen

Executive Director OPRF Chamber of Commerce

Twice this past week, I encountered people who just invested in small businesses in the Oak Park and River Forest community.  Neither had reached out to any of the local business institutions before making the investments.

Great people.  Smart, well-capitalized, real estate- and business-savvy. Sound business plans on paper. So why am I scratching my head?

Both investors have been busy with the specific details of their start-ups:  meeting landlords, finding space, completing legal work.  But neither of them called the Village until they had to.  Neither of them checked in with the Chamber to get the lay of the land.  Neither of them spent time reviewing the structural and cultural aspects of the local business landscape or the business districts.

Starting a new business is overwhelming, requiring laser-focus and determination.  You make decisions deliberately and quickly.  Bringing in another opinion or extraneous information may seem superfluous and time-consuming, especially when it's not hard data.

Our communities have great demographics, to be sure.  But let's face it: we can be quirky.  Nothing that can't be overcome – but isn't it better to know?  We boast a number of organizations in place to help businesses.  These organizations will share with you the culture of the neighborhoods, advise on upcoming construction, introduce experts in zoning and urban planning.  Let you know what services are available and what to expect.  Provide free information that might not always be obvious.

Start with local government.  In Oak Park, the Village's Department of Development Customer Service does much more than issue business licenses.  The Oak Park Economic Development Corp., whose mission is to attract and facilitate commercial investment, is a phone call away.  The Chamber of Commerce is a good resources as well.  And in Oak Park, it really helps to touch base with the leaders of the neighborhood business district.

We're nice people.  We're here to help you, no strings attached.  We'll keep it confidential. And we don't have a dog in the hunt other than to make sure you have everything you need to make the best business decisions.  Give us a call.

Email: Twitter: @OPRFChamber

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