The Business of Districts

Getting Down to Business with the OPRF Chamber

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By Cathy Yen

Executive Director OPRF Chamber of Commerce

Oak Park businesses will have received by now an emailed invitation to an upcoming meeting on area "Business Districts" from our project facilitator and brand consultant Jenny Yang.  Here is what that is all about.

On May 9, from 8am - 10am, the Chamber is hosting a stakeholder meeting to introduce business owners to our work with the Village's business districts.  We want all business owners to understand the project and have an opportunity to provide input as we begin to shape recommendations, brand and structure for the volunteer district organizations that support our local merchants.

Why is this important?  While the Chamber of Commerce works to connect and give voice to all types of businesses across the community, business districts focus on street-level vitality in their hyper-local commercial areas, be it just a few blocks long or a larger multi-bock shopping mecca.  

Businesses in a district work together on marketing and events. Often, the Village of Oak Park needs to communicate directly to businesses in a single district.  Or, the businesses in a defined area want to collectively communicate their needs to the Village.  Unless there is a framework in place for organizing, collaborating and disseminating information, businesses can be left out of the loop.  And, they are challenged to create the events, advertising and excitement that takes scale and combined resources.

There are twelve districts in all, encompassing most, but not all, area businesses (another challenge).  Some districts have volunteer leaders that represent the area.  Some even have organized formal merchant associations.  All districts are volunteer-led, except for Downtown Oak Park, which hires professional staff, funded by a special tax assessed on it property owners.

Some districts do not have any organization in place at all.  I'd venture to say that some businesses do not know that they are even in a business district.

We at the Chamber aim to bring some organization to all of this to ensure that every local business is part of something appropriate for whatever it is it wants to accomplish.  Just what that is, we're not sure.  Come help us figure it out on May 9.

Email: Twitter: @OPRFChamber

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