Travel stores are rife with guidebooks highlighting can’t-miss locations within America’s major cities, but the task of helping visitors navigate Small Town U.S.A. typically falls to local businesses eager to entice tourism. Such is the case in our community, and the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce is setting the bar high with a dynamic new Web site designed to showcase local retailers and service providers.
The six-year-old Chamber unveiled the new site, designed by Grosse Pointe Park-based Costello Design Group, at its annual meeting on Jan. 25. According to Executive Director Jennifer Palms Boettcher, the Chamber augmented its Web presence to give greater support to its swelling membership and the residents they serve.
The previous site, which received some 4,000 hits a month, served more as a directory, listing basic information on each member, Boettcher said. The new site, which was developed over the course of six months, gives its members the opportunity to develop their own “micro Web sites” and also offers an events calendar and information on schools, parks and other community resources, such as dining and food, shopping, and real estate and lodging, that would induce individuals to visit or move to Grosse Pointe.
“We have art, theater, opportunities and resources” that were not adequately publicized by the old site, Boettcher said, adding that the new site is also “more alive and colorful” and generally more attractive than the old one.
The Chamber, which represents all five Grosse Pointes, picked up an additional 100 members over the past year, a rapid expansion that has brought overall membership to 473. Boettcher attributes this to a growing desire among local businesses to support one another and stretch their resources further through a single, organized advocate.
The Chamber, whose offices on the Hill are staffed by Boettcher and two part-time employees, is funded solely by membership dues.
Membership brings a long list of benefits, including monthly networking events, professional referrals, advertising in the Chamber’s relocation packet for new home buyers, ribbon cutting ceremonies, sponsorship opportunities at special events, training and developing workshops, insurance programs, office supply and utility discounts, and a quarterly newsletter.
The Chamber also hosts a number of social activities to give businesses exposure, such as the biannual Cuisine Cruise--a restaurant crawl during which Chamber-chartered buses take participants from venue to venue. The next Cuisine Cruise, scheduled for May, will focus on restaurants on Grosse Pointe’s south side, while another slated for November will focus on north side eateries.
Perhaps the Chamber’s most farsighted initiative is its “relocation project,” through which it visits companies planning to relocate to Southeast Michigan to encourage their employees to consider making Grosse Pointe for their new home. Currently the Chamber is wooing workers at Rock Island, Ill.-based employer relocating to Warren. Four families have already settled in Grosse Pointe as a result of these efforts, Boettcher said.
Boettcher, who joined the Chamber’s staff in 2006 and took the reins in February 2010, says chief among her goals is to foster greater collaboration between the Chamber and four other Grosse Pointe business organizations: The Grosse Pointe Hill Association, the Mack Avenue Business Association, the Grosse Pointe Park Business Association, and the Grosse Pointe Village Association. Boettcher said better combination of the resources and expertise of all five groups would result in more robust programs for area businesses and residents alike.