About the Chamber
The Chamber of Commerce in Wyoming and Kentwood
was first organized and incorporated in August, 1980 as the Wyoming Chamber of Commerce, Inc. by a group of Wyoming’s civic and business leaders. Some of those individuals included Hy Berkowitz of Rogers Department Store, Jack Loeks of Jack Loeks Theaters, Joe Betten of Courtesy Dodge, the Cities of Wyoming and Kentwood and Delton Parks of Country Fresh.
The Chamber Mission has always focused on promoting the community and helping local businesses to profitably grow sales; we have always relied heavily on our dedicated network of volunteers who work tirelessly to support the Chamber and the local community.
In 1981, the Chamber hired its first President, Cathy Ambrose, who grew the Chamber to nearly 575 members by 1991. One of the early projects organized by the Chamber, in addition to the Annual Golf Outing, was the Wyoming Rodeo. After Cathy moved to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Chamber hired Paul Philpot as its Chief Executive who guided the Chamber through some challenging times in a tough economy until 1993. The Board then changed the organization’s name to Wyoming Area Chamber of Commerce, Inc. to recognize the large number of businesses without a Wyoming location which were
Bryant Goudelock became the Chamber’s third CEO in January, 1994 and worked diligently to re-energize the Chamber; by the time he left the Chamber for the private sector in June, 1994, Chamber membership had grown back to just over 500 members, from 350 in the midst of the difficult recession.
In July, 1997, Grand Rapids native John J. Crawford was appointed President and CEO.
The Chamber, with the strong support of its Board of Directors, has achieved much in the last decade.
The Chamber mobilized businesses along 28th Street SW and helped build the support necessary to create Wyoming’s Downtown Development Authority. The DDA was officially formed on January 1, 2000 and has helped with a steady transformation of that valuable commercial business district.
The Chamber also worked hard to pull the businesses together along Division Avenue, from 28th to 44th Streets. That group has “spun off” and maintains a close relationship with the Chamber. Called the
Division Avenue Business Association (“DABA”), the businesses all along Division are leading the way to show “Community Pride” with the physical improvements along the corridor.
In 2001, at the encouragement of then Board Chairperson Phil Tietz, the Chamber expanded its Primary Service area to include the City of Kentwood, even though the City of Kentwood had been a member of the Chamber since the Chamber was first organized. The City and the Chamber exchanged documents in October of 2001 to formalize the relationship. Since then, the Chamber has been in a stronger position to help promote the many strengths of the City, to help convey information from the City to its businesses – and importantly, to help be an advocate at Kentwood City Hall for the businesses that help generate the city’s economic well-being.
Also in 2001, The Board of Directors re-organized the Chamber to make it much more responsive to its memberships’ needs by organizing it into four operating Divisions: Community Relations, Financial Development, Member Relations and Membership Development.
Chamber membership now stands at about 410, in spite of the recent unprecedented economic downturn. Wyoming and Kentwood make up nearly 51 square miles of some of the most valuable commercial, industrial and retail real estate in West Michigan. The population of the two cities is over 117,000.
Growth potential in these two key suburbs remains high with over 4,000 business entities calling Wyoming and Kentwood home, including some of the area’s largest industrial companies. The Chamber is proud that it has been able to play a key role, along with responsive City governments, to build a better community – a better place to live, to work, to raise a family … and a better place to do business!