Greater Farmington Chamber director accepts Livonia mall post

Laurel Park Place, a Livonia mall, has made Greater Farmington Area Chamber executive director Dan Irvin an offer he can’t refuse.

After the Greater Farmington Area Founders Festival wraps up its 52nd year on July 17, Irvin will leave the post he has held for the past 21 months. He made clear that he is not “jumping ship”. The mall organization sought him out to fill its general manager position. Irvin could not be more proud of the Chamber’s current status.

“The roots we’ve planted have really started to blossom,” the Farmington Hills resident said. “We have a wonderful staff, and our board of directors is the best in the community.”

When Irvin took over leadership in October of 2014, the Chamber struggled with membership and event attendance. Now, board executive president Karen Blazaitis says, the Chamber is “in a better position than it has been in many years.”

“As executive director, Dan has been such an integral part of growing the GFACC over the last 21 months,” said Blazaitis, who owns Mid American Studio in Farmington Hills. “His enthusiasm and drive helped propel our Chamber membership to its highest numbers to date.”

Since 2014, the organization has grown by more than 100 paid members, and new membership director Marcia Rodeheffer is on track to raise the member retention rate from 68 percent to nearly 90 percent, Irvin said. Attendance at events like Taste of Two Cities and the annual Golf Outing has skyrocketed. Even morning networking events draw several times more members.

Irvin has done his part. He once donned a tutu to promote a networking event at Blazaitis’ studio. But he credits his staff – which also includes Director of Communications and Events Kristin Curle Houchins, Finance Director Diana Lis, and Office Manager Cheryl Zajdel – with pulling the Chamber through tough times, and said the Board of Directors has been nothing but supportive.

“My first day… Ken Paulson and Duane Reynolds took me to breakfast,” Irvin recalled. “They said anything you want to try and do, we’re going to support. Don’t think that anything’s too crazy.”

Changes have included more community involvement. Irvin said every employee belongs to at least one other community nonprofit. The Chamber has, for the first time in years, sponsored a Miss Farmington contestant, and has a closer relationship with the Farmington Farmers and Artisans Market. When a coach embezzled funds from a group of Farmington High cheerleaders, the Chamber stepped up with a check. This year, Irvin will present a check to the Farmington Elks Lodge, in appreciation for their work with the Founders Festival.

Irvin said he’ll remain involved with the Chamber and with one other local nonprofit, even after he starts his new gig on July 18.

“I believe in community service,” he said. “I live here, and I’ve been very blessed to have the opportunity to serve with this organization.”

Blazaitis said a committee of eight Chamber members will conduct the search for Irvin’s replacement. Candidates must have Chamber experience, “proven financial and managerial skills” and, at a minimum, hold a Bachelor’s degree. Once Founders Festival ends, there’s a lull in the action until the Chamber Expo in October, so no interim director will be appointed. The new director is expected to start September 1. Anyone interested should send an application to president@gfachamber.com.

Planning is underway for Irvin’s July 28 going away party. Details will be announced at a later date.

 

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