(Crystal A. Proxmire, June 5, 2017)
Ferndale, MI – When asked what his wish for Ferndale would be, the new Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Matt Zook said “People here in Metro Detroit know about Ferndale. What I want is for people outside the state to know Ferndale. So if people come to Detroit they know Ferndale as the place they want to go, and dine, check out, and be part of the scene.”
Zook has a background rich with publicity and tourism experiences, as well as an education in psychology, sociology and marketing. He comes to Ferndale from Mackinaw City where he’d been the Chamber Director for just over a year. Prior to that he was in Toledo with a publishing company for a year and a half, then Sault St. Marie working as Operations Manager for Attraction Marketing which is owned by the Soo Lock Boat Tours.
He had lived in SE Michigan in his youth and was familiar with Ferndale’s growth. The inspiration to apply came recently. “I went to a Michigan Associations of Professionals Conference in October and I heard about the great things happening in Ferndale, and I saw how other Chambers operated. I realized I wanted to do more. I loved Mackinaw City and we were starting to get the ball rolling there on some good changes, but I want something that is less seasonal. I want to work in a community where there are things happening year round,” he said.
One accomplishment Zook is proud of is encouraging folks in Mackinaw City to work on year-round business development. “We needed businesses that weren’t tourism-based,” he said. Another, he said, “is growing the businesses that I’ve been involved in. With the Soo we went from doing boat tours to really doing well with attraction marketing.”
One of his first experiences after accepting the position was attending the celebration of Ferndale earning Redevelopment Ready Certification from the State of Michigan. He was impressed with how Ferndale had put such a focus on being business-friendly.
“Rifino [Valentine] talked about how he’d tried to open in Detroit, and all the road-blocks he ran into. But then he came to Ferndale and the City welcomed him with open arms,” Zook said. “I want to look for ways that we, as a Chamber, fit into this whole Ferndale experience.”
“The Chamber is not just about building relationships within the community, but about promoting Ferndale to the outside world,” he said. “I want to show how Ferndale is a model for business, and help our existing businesses be more successful too.”
Over 100 people applied for the Director position. “Our Selection Committee did an incredible, time-consuming job looking for who will represent Ferndale. They sorted through all those resumes and narrowed it down for us,” said Chamber President Jerome Raska of Blumz by JR Designs.
Raska was happy to see Zook at the top of the Selection Committee’s list. “His professionalism and his experience not just in Chambers but in the tourism industry will help Ferndale with being a leader in the Metro Detroit Area,” Raska said. “I see the Chamber as growing rapidly with the amount of new business and development. The Chamber has an important role. We have strong working relationships with the DDA and the City. Working together we have a powerhouse community to support and retain our existing businesses and welcome more businesses here.”
Zook began his work as Executive Director just prior the Chamber’s Rainbow Run, an event where he showed his true colors – chipping in with volunteer efforts, talking with not only officials and Chamber members, but with friendliness to complete strangers. He was also taking everything in, looking for ways to do things better, and excited about the possibilities.
“Ferndale is already doing things right. What can I do to help keep that going, and how can I help put Ferndale even more on the map?” he said.
Learn more about the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce at http://www.ferndaleareachamber.com/.