Pontiac Chamber Celebrates Community Success
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Jan.29, 2018)
Pontiac, MI- “I’m just ready to give Pontiac something they haven’t had yet. I know my business is just clothing, but I know that I will make an impact,” said the young man who stood before a room full of business owners and officials at the annual luncheon for the Pontiac Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Oshun Williams started Mitten Made Originals because of a love of fashion, but he added Self-Made as a service to help other entrepreneurs get their start. He was one of several entrepreneurs who received grants from Flagstar Bank to assist small businesses in the community. In addition to the $10,000 grant, Williams has benefited from networking with more established business owners.
“Being a resident of Pontiac, I’m not used to getting information. I’m not used to being around people like this,” he said. He and other young entrepreneurs shared stories of mentorship and learning to connect with those working toward success.
The sense of awe was not limited to Williams. Throughout the room, entrepreneurs at all ages and stages celebrated the successes of Pontiac’s resurgence since coming out of State emergency management in 2016 and gaining more rights back in 2017.
Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner was the keynote speaker for the event. “We have an opportunity like we’ve not had in decades,” he said. “When I came to the County as the County Treasurer, I said our County Seat must shine… Getting the steering wheel of democracy back from the State is part of it.”
Flagstar Bank was praised for their commitment to reinvest in the city, already giving over $300,000 in grants along with loans for small businesses, home buyers and financial literacy programs. “We’re here for the long haul,” said Bill Sullivan of Flagstar. “We’re going to stay committed to you.”
Another grant recipient was Will McNeal of McNeal Complete Auto Repair. He’s owned his auto repair shop for 18 years. “I’ve always wanted to own my own car dealership,” he said. “With this $10,000 grant I’ll be able to expand to include auto sales.”
While Flagstar Bank is often recognized for their investment in the community, there are many grassroots efforts taking place. Pitch N’ Pontiac and Pontiac Soup are events where community money is raised and redistributed to help fund good ideas.
Coleman Yoakum and his friends have been working on the issue of increasing access to healthy food in the city. Sprout is a fresh produce store on Huron Street that works with local growers. His idea to transform an old ambulance into a traveling produce stand earned seed money at Pontiac Soup. “Like an ice cream truck, but for vegetables,” he said. It should be hitting the streets in the spring. Yoakum also runs a group for entrepreneurs under the age of 40 through the Pontiac Regional Chamber.
For Tanesha Taylor of Quest Allstar Athletics, winning Pitch Pontiac meant being able to buy a tumble track for her young athletes. “We’re the only cheer, dance and tumble business in Pontiac, and the only black-owned in Oakland County,” Taylor said. “These girls and boys travel all over the country. Not only is it about winning, it’s a mentorship program.” The tumble track was a $5,000 investment. “Tumbling is important because it can take girls to the Olympics,” she said.
These endeavors and others were shared through the event, giving the sense that the interest and investment in the community is growing.
The Chamber is growing too. After years of stagnation membership is up to over 6o, with new businesses joining regularly. “To see the growth of the Chamber, I’m so proud,” said Councilperson Kermit Williams. “Thank you for the investment each person is making in Pontiac.”
Learn more about the Pontiac Regional Chamber at https://www.pontiacrc.com/.
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