Monday, December 19, 2011

2012 promises to be another exciting year for the Chamber

So much for down time.

The Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber completed its event calendar for 2011 when we hosted our annual Holiday Mixer Dec. 7 at Edison’s in downtown Birmingham. Owner Judi Roberts and her team did an awesome job providing a festive atmosphere, sumptuous food and innovative libations for our members and their guests.

With a successful 2011 in the rear view mirror, the Chamber staff already is hard at work planning out the first quarter of 2012 to ensure our member businesses realize even more benefits in return for their investment in the Chamber.

First up is our annual Membership Directory, which is set to go to the printer as I write this column. The directory is distributed to thousands of homes in our six member communities, and is a yearlong resource for area residents. Look for it in early January as a supplement to Birmingham Bloomfield Lifestyle Magazine.

We also are very excited about a new event we are planning for March. The Chamber is partnering with Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital on a health and wellness event. The breakfast program will feature a keynote address from the hospital’s President and CEO, Gerard Van Grinsven, about revolutionary changes that are taking place in the industry, as well as a panel of exports who will discuss the challenges the private sector faces in providing health care benefits to their employees in the face of ever escalating costs.

While the Chamber’s programs and events are the most visible evidence of what we do, the core of our mission is simply working with our member businesses on a daily basis to ensure their success. We receive hundreds of referral requests on a yearly basis, and it is gratifying to be able to recommend one of our members that we know will provide that referral with an outstanding business experience.

Happy holidays, and I hope to see you soon at a Chamber program or event, or simply drop by our offices at 725 S. Adams in the Adams Square shopping center to hear what we have in store for 2012.

Joe Bauman is president of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber. He welcomes feedback at

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber Announces New Directors

The Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber has appointed Sunny Connolly, Gail Evo, Monica Haider, Donald Lee and Chris McLogan to its 2012 Board of Directors for a three-year term.

Connolly is senior partner with the Bingham Farms-based Patterson Bryant Group. He has been a Chamber member since 2008.

Evo is corporate director of integrative medicine for Royal Oak-based Beaumont Health Systems. She has been a Chamber member since 2007.

Haider is vice president of Birmingham-based Shore Financial Services. She has been a Chamber member since 2010.

Lee is chief marketing officer for Clark Hill PLC. He has been a Chamber member since 2005 and works out of the law firm’s Detroit and Birmingham offices.

McLogan is a real estate sales professional with Birmingham-based Max Broock Realtors. He has been a Chamber member since 2009.

In addition to the new appointments, Alicia Green was named Chair of the Board of Directors for 2012. Green, a resident of Bloomfield Township, is owner of Troy-based Aqua Advantage. She has been a Chamber member since 2003, and has served on the Board of Directors since 2007.

Also named as officers for 2012 were Bruce Kridler, senior vice president of Huntington Bank’s Wealth Advisory Group, 1st vice chair; Karen Pifer, a partner with the Honigman law firm, 2nd vice chair; Mark Smith, a partner with Mellen, Smith & Pivoz, PLC, CPAs, treasurer; and Linda Hatfield, vice president of marketing for the Birmingham Bloomfield Credit Union, secretary. Brian Henry, commercial services counsel for eTitle and chair of the Board of Directors for 2010-11, will serve as past chair. For more information contact Joe Bauman

Monday, November 28, 2011

First Citizen Larry Neal leads Bloomfield Hills' library effort

Larry Neal, this year's Birmingham Eccentric First Citizen, knows something about libraries. And he loves them.

So when Bloomfield Hills, his hometown for 29 years, broke with the Bloomfield Township library eight years ago, he, like many residents, felt adrift. And when opponents of a library agreement spread information that he felt was incorrect, he was moved to act.

“That sort of started it for me,” Neal said. He met with some like-minded neighbors, including then-mayor Dave Kellett, approached the Bloomfield Hills City Commission and the township library board to possibly hammer out an agreement.

“We did come up with a proposal in 2009,” said Neal. That was in March of that year and by May it was on the ballot. “I was organizer of the millage process,” Neal said. He brought friends and neighbors into the process, but there just wasn't enough time between March and the election in May to sell the proposal to the community. It lost by just 90 votes.

Still, Neal said, “I was thrilled to see that this could progress this far.” And he was encouraged not to give up.

“People have a very strong interest in the library,” he said. “They see it as an integral part of the community.” And he worried. “I saw a generation of kids growing up without a connection to the library,” he said.

That led to the second millage effort, a massive (by Bloomfield Hills standards) campaign effort, including lawn signs and door-to-door visits. “I hate lawns signs,” Neal said. “But I ended up designing one.”

It all came to a head at Northern Lakes seafood restaurant on Tuesday, Nov. 8, where Neal gathered with a small group of friends to anxiously await the results of the millage vote. And anxious it was, early result were extremely close, with the yes votes slightly ahead. The tension was lifted a short while later when the results came in — the three-year .39 mill question had passed. It wasn't an overwhelming victory — 548 to 509 votes — but it was enough to allow the city to execute a contract with the Baldwin Public Library. At last, the city had its own library again.

“I'd like to say I was relieved,” Neal said. “But three years is not a long time.” He's advised millage supporters to keep their lawn signs handy for the next go-round.

That 84,000-square-foot facility is state of the art, even offering services for the blind. Some days the library is so packed that there isn't room for cars in the lot. That alone, he said, shows that libraries aren't obsolete or even threatened by today's modern technology.

Still he plans to make people aware of what the Baldwin Library has to offer. That shouldn't be too difficult. Bloomfield Hills residents already have flooded over to Baldwin to get their library cards. And they thank Neal.

“City residents have use of Birmingham's Baldwin Public Library because of Larry's outstanding leadership and perseverance,” said Mary Joseph, “a proud Baldwin library card holder,” in her nomination of Neal for First Citizen.

“He has improved the quality of life in our community through his tireless volunteer efforts to lead the “Library YES” vote and should be recognized for his exceptional service to our residents. Because of Larry, we have a happy ending to the Bloomfield Hills library story.”

Her comments were typical in the dozens of nominations for Neal that were submitted.

“Without Larry's dedication to the cause he so firmly believed in, I do not think that we would have a contract with the Baldwin Library today,” said Carol Young, in her nomination of Neal. “My family and I would like to recognize Larry with the prestigious First Citizen award because he truly led (in first position) the team that worked with him to get the contract with Baldwin. I signed up for my library card on Nov. 15 at 11 a.m., the first day of our contract.”

That tied into exactly the message Neal plans to deliver: “Get your library card, and I'll see you at the library.”

Written by: Greg Kowalski Eccentric Staff Writer

Monday, November 21, 2011

Richard Astrein: This year's leading business person

It is hard to believe the holidays are upon us and 2011 is crashing toward a conclusion. It has been a very busy year here at the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber, and we are grateful to our members and sponsors for helping to make it a memorable and successful year.

We have lots of exciting plans for 2012, all geared toward helping our members increase their spheres of influence and ultimately grow their business. And we will continue to support the many charitable organizations that comprise our Nonprofit Network to help them realize their goals, develop relationships with the private sector, and continue to improve the quality of life in the “Five Bs and beyond.”

Before we shift our focus to 2012, there still is some important business to be completed this year; namely, thanking our volunteers who give so generously of their time, talent and treasure on behalf of the BBC, and to recognize the 2011 Business Person of the Year. We do this at the chamber's annual meeting, scheduled for 8-9:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, at The Community House in downtown Birmingham.

Those attending the breakfast meeting (and we hope to see all of our members and friends there) likely will immediately recognize this year's Business Person of the Year. And that is exactly why Richard Astrein is so richly deserving of the recognition.

Richard, along with his brother, Gary, has operated Astrein's Creative Jewelers on Maple Road in the heart of downtown Birmingham for nearly 35 years. Richard always has shared his family's business success with the community, supporting a multitude of charities including the pediatric cancer programs at Beaumont Children's Hospital, the Alzheimer's Association, Common Ground and the Birmingham Bloomfield Community Coalition, to name a few.

Astrein also is a tireless promoter of Birmingham, and is a founding board member of the Birmingham Principal Shopping District, and a former director and still ardent supporter of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber. He truly loves this community, and has gone light years beyond many of his peers in supporting the community, its residents and its institutions.

With the holiday shopping season upon us, Astrein will be easy to spot in his store and in downtown Birmingham. If you find yourself near his business, stop in and thank him for all of his hard work and efforts. And please consider coming to the annual meeting to share in his well-deserved accolades. Visit the chamber's website at for more details.

Joe Bauman is president of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber. He welcomes feedback at

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Family Fun - October 23, 2011

Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber Halloween Parade in Downtown Shain Park, Birmingham. Save the Date for the Halloween Parade next year on October 21, 2012.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Time to shine the light on area’s unsung heroes

I have opined many times in this space that it is the tireless work of an army of volunteers and community minded business leaders that make the greater Birmingham-Bloomfield area the best place in Michigan and beyond to live, work and raise a family. The folks who live in these communities have fierce pride for their hometown, and are willing to work – and sometimes fight – to keep them truly special places.

More often than not, the men, women and young people behind these efforts go unnoticed because, well, they avoid drawing attention to themselves and their efforts. They simply do what they can to help a neighbor in need, a grassroots nonprofit or a civic organization attain the goal of improving the quality of life for their community and its residents.

The Birmingham Eccentric has a long history of gently nudging one of these outstanding individuals out of the shadows and into the spotlight by recognizing a “First Citizen of Birmingham Bloomfield.” The newspaper does this not to embarrass or draw unwanted attention to the individual, rather to hold them up as a shining example of what the rest of us could be doing, and should be doing to help improve the lives of our neighbors and the greater community.

Here at the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber, we try to do the same thing with our “Business Person of the Year” award. The annual award, which is bestowed at the Chamber’s Annual Meeting and in conjunction with the awarding of the Eccentric’s First Citizen Award, is given to an individual who has demonstrated personal and professional leadership within the business or nonprofit community. The person also has realized considerable professional success in their chosen field, and uses that success to give back to the larger community.

As 2011 is quickly crashing to a conclusion, the Chamber is seeking nominations for the 2011 Business Person of the Year. We rely on the community to tell us who is deserving of such recognition by nominating a friend, colleague, business partner or loved one for the award.

Nominating forms with all of the appropriate details can be found on the Chamber Web site at, and also are available at our offices at 725. South Adams, suite 100, in the Adams Square shopping center in Birmingham. Forms must be received by 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, and can be emailed to with a subject line of Business Person of the Year. Or, simply stop by the office and say hi.

Please take the time to give a deserving person his or her due by nominating them for this award, and plan to join us on Thursday, Dec. 1 at The Community House for the Chamber’s Annual Meeting. Details, as always, are available at

Joe Bauman is President of the Birmingham-Bloomfield Chamber. He welcomes feedback at

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall events showcase ‘The Town That Time Forgot’

Well, there is no denying it: Fall is here in all its’ splendor….and cold….and rain…and…

Don’t get me wrong, I love fall. In fact, it might be my favorite of Michigan’s (sometimes) four seasons. We just are getting off to a little bit of a bumpy start, but I always look forward to the still-warmish days, cool nights and the amazing fall colors this state is blessed with.

Fall is full of traditions in Michigan. Here in Oakland County, one of the biggest is the annual trek to a cider mill for sweet cider, crunchy local apples and to-die-for doughnuts.

The Franklin Cider Mill is a landmark in the otherwise sleepy Franklin Village, drawing thousands of people– and millions of bees! – every weekend to “The Town That Time Forgot.” I had the good fortune of living in Franklin for a couple of years when I was but a mere sprout, and still have warm feelings toward my old playground.
I’ll be heading back to the Village on Oct. 11, when the Chamber partners with Main Street Franklin for a FRANKLINstein Friendzy pre-event. The morning of fun begins at 8:30 a.m. with a meet-and-greet at the Farmhouse Coffee & Ice Cream shop, followed by a “Discover and Experience Franklin” walking tour of the downtown business district.
The pre-event is a precursor to the second-annual Frenzy, scheduled for Oct. 22. The full day of fun includes several new events this year, including the Crazy Bill Coffin Races, the Great Pumpkin roll, and the Franklenstein Beer Garden. The festivities conclude with the village bonfire at the beer garden that evening where guests are encouraged to share spooky stories. Chamber Members register for the FRANKLINstein Friendzy here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Our communities and businesses are ripe for exploration

Check out the 2011 Videos

One of the best things about my job is I get to make new acquaintances nearly every day. The greater Birmingham-Bloomfield community is a dynamic place filled with interesting people and places. And even though I have prowled these towns for more than 20 years, I continue to make new discoveries all the time.

A favorite part of my job is co-hosting Chamber Chat, our monthly show we produce with the great folks at Bloomfield Community Television. Each month, we interview the owner or leader of two of our member businesses, and share their success stories. Taping these segments has given me the opportunity to really get to know the men and women behind our local businesses, as well as rekindle some of my journalistic skills.

We are quickly wrapping up our first full year of production, and I am very grateful for the time and effort my co-host, Kimberly Wyman of ADOPT MORE, our producer Rance Bradley of NetFilms LLC, and Steve Rota and the crew at Bloomfield Community Television have invested to make the show such a success.
We’ve had a lot of fun doing the show, and all of our guests have been outstanding.

We have run the gamut of businesses we have spotlighted, from downtown Birmingham stalwarts Astrein’s Creative Jewelers, Tiffany Florist and OPTIK Birmingham, to exercise emporium Real Ryder Revolution, real estate foreclosure specialists Orlans Associates and local architect Victor Saroki. All of the programs can be accessed through the Chamber Web site at, as well as Bloomfield Community Television’s archive portion of its Web site.

I am looking forward to taping new shows in 2012 and introducing more dynamic businesses to the greater community. And if you are a Chamber member businesses interested in doing a show, feel free to drop me a line. We are ready to tell your story.

Joe Bauman is president of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber. He welcomes feedback at

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

School chiefs speak on the state of schools

What to expect in the coming school year was just one of the topics covered by school Superintendents David Larson of Birmingham and Robert Glass of Bloomfield Hills Wednesday at the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber's Breakfast, Books and Buildings event at the Birmingham Conference Center.

The event helped the schools connect with community leaders and present the latest developments from the Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills school districts.

“We are all energized and enthusiastic as the new school year begins,” said Larson.

Larson and Glass both stressed the goals of providing world-class education for their students.

Glass referred to the Strategic Plan for the district which has these objectives: Provide every student with a world-class educational experience; sustain trust through community partnership; sustain financial success; and provide and maintain facilities.

“We need to bring our community along on the high school decision process and reach a decision soon,” he said.

“We have a fine, competent school board. They are altruistic people of great integrity. They are caring, intelligent and have the best interest of the community at heart,” said Glass.

In his presentation, Larson referred to the Birmingham strategic plan and cited the fiscal stewardship which has been shown through privatization, restructuring, downsizing, energy management and cost containment.

Glass also mentioned the necessity for wise financial planning and actions which have enabled the Bloomfield Hills district to maintain a AAA rating.

“I am proud to be a part of both school districts,” said Carol Mastroianni, executive director of the Birmingham Bloomfield Community Coalition. “Both provide fine education. Both are proactive and operate with transparency, and both seek community input.”

The 80 persons attended the event including chamber members, community officials, school board members and residents. Joe Bauman, president of the chamber, said, “We are grateful to the superintendents for giving their time. There is a great interest in the schools.”

The event was moderated by Greg Kowalski, editor of the Birmingham Eccentric.

The Birmingham Bloomfield Credit Union and Axis Music Academy helped sponsor the event. Linda Hatfield, vice president of marketing for the credit union, said, “We proudly support the school systems. It is important that the community is aware of the challenges schools are facing and how they are overcoming them. They are still prominent, fine school systems.”

Ingrid Day, president of the Bloomfield Hills school board, said, “This was an opportunity to bring groups together. It is the best way to demonstrate that we are all working together for the good of the students.”

Diane K. Bert is a free-lance writer and former educator. She lives in Bloomfield Township.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Another new school year brings promise, life changes

It is hard to believe a new school year is right around the corner. It seems like only yesterday we all were bemoaning a cold and wet spring, wondering when summer finally would arrive.

The greater Birmingham-Bloomfield area is blessed with outstanding schools, both public and private. Ask any Realtor what makes this area so attractive to prospective buyers and the quality of its schools surely will be at or near the top of the list.

But these are challenging times in Michigan, and our public schools are caught smack in the middle of the state’s continuing fiscal crisis. Budgets are tighter than ever, and tough decisions have to be made on a regular basis by those entrusted with educating our next generation of leaders.

In Bloomfield Hills, the community remains embroiled in controversy over how best to serve its declining high school population. In Birmingham, school leaders are struggling to maintain the excellent and diverse educational opportunities that have historically been offered to it students. The district continues to lose staff positions through attrition and maintaining a healthy class size is a top priority.

To help sort through the myriad issues facing our public schools, the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber is hosting our second-annual “Breakfast, Books and Buildings” program on Wednesday, Aug. 31 at the Birmingham Conference Center. The breakfast meeting, scheduled from 8-9:30 a.m., will feature state-of-the-school reports from Birmingham Public Schools Supt. Dr. David Larson, and Robert Glass, superintendent of Bloomfield Hills Public Schools. Following their reports, both leaders will engage the audience in a question and answer session moderated by Birmingham Eccentric Editor Greg Kowalski.

Sponsors include: Birmingham Bloomfield Credit Union and Axis Music Academy

To learn more about the program and register, visit the Chamber’s Web site at

Monday, August 1, 2011

New Birmingham Montage captures the spirit of our community

One thing that has always impressed me about the greater Birmingham-Bloomfield community in the 20-some years I have worked here is the fierce loyalty residents have toward their hometown. “Community Pride” is not a simple catchphrase here; rather it is on proud display throughout the communities.

Want proof? When Birmingham city leaders decided to adopt an official color to help brand the community, they were unable to identify an existing color good enough to represent their hometown, so they created their own, which now is known as “Birmingham Green.”

It is because of this display of civic pride that the Birmingham Chamber decided to join forces with four outstanding community resources – The Community House, Baldwin Public Library, the Birmingham Historical Society and the Principal Shopping District – to commission a piece of artwork showcasing the many special attributes of these communities. The Birmingham Montage highlights many of the longstanding businesses that serve the area, as well as highlights local landmarks and pays homage to historical figures and local celebrities.

We are proud of the Montage, and have partnered with Chamber member Art & Frame Station in Birmingham to make prints of the work available for sale along with special discounts for those who wish to have the prints matted and framed when they purchase the print. Store owner Jill Haury is a big-time supporter of the community, and is looking forward to helping residents proudly display their latest display of community pride.

Feel free to stop by the Art & Frame Station next to Peabody’s Restaurant to check out the Montage, or visit us at the Chamber offices the next time you are near Adams Square to sneak a peek. We think you will like it.

By: Joe Bauman, President, Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber

Monday, July 11, 2011

Get ready to tee it up at the annual Chamber golf outing

Every year, I make a pledge to play more golf. It is not so much a New Year’s Resolution as an acknowledgment that I should spend more time in a pursuit that I find both personally challenging and very relaxing.
And every year, I fail miserably in my pledge. In fact, I am pretty sure my number of rounds played has decreased in each of the last five years, despite my best intentions.

Take this year, for example. As I write this blog, I am staring at my wall calendar which shows we are solidly in the month of July and I have played exactly one round of golf. And that was a scramble outing, no less.

How can this be? How did I allow this to happen?

As I am sure it is true with most people, a little thing called life oftentimes disrupts our best-laid plans. Family, work and other life pursuits often take precedence over spending a few hours of blissful down time on a peaceful, pristine golf course.

An annual highlight of my golf season is playing in the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber’s golf outing, scheduled this year for Monday, Aug. 15 at the prestigious Birmingham Country Club. The Club does a fantastic job as our host, and the staff always makes our guests feel like they truly are members for a day during the outing. The course always is in immaculate condition, the food is terrific and the camaraderie at the event can’t be beat.

The Chamber currently is taking reservations and sponsor opportunities for this year’s golf outing, which always is a sell-out. Go to to reserve your spot, and I will plan to see you on the links come Aug. 15. By Joe Bauman, president Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber

Get ready to tee it up at the annual Chamber golf outing

Every year, I make a pledge to play more golf. It is not so much a New Year’s Resolution as an acknowledgment that I should spend more time in a pursuit that I find both personally challenging and very relaxing.
And every year, I fail miserably in my pledge. In fact, I am pretty sure my number of rounds played has decreased in each of the last five years, despite my best intentions.

Take this year, for example. As I write this blog, I am staring at my wall calendar which shows we are solidly in the month of July and I have played exactly one round of golf. And that was a scramble outing, no less.

How can this be? How did I allow this to happen?

As I am sure it is true with most people, a little thing called life oftentimes disrupts our best-laid plans. Family, work and other life pursuits often take precedence over spending a few hours of blissful down time on a peaceful, pristine golf course.

An annual highlight of my golf season is playing in the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber’s golf outing, scheduled this year for Monday, Aug. 15 at the prestigious Birmingham Country Club. The Club does a fantastic job as our host, and the staff always makes our guests feel like they truly are members for a day during the outing. The course always is in immaculate condition, the food is terrific and the camaraderie at the event can’t be beat.

The Chamber currently is taking reservations and sponsor opportunities for this year’s golf outing, which always is a sell-out. Go to to reserve your spot, and I will plan to see you on the links come Aug. 15.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Summer officially arrived on the calendar this past week, although it seems the concept of Michigan having four defined seasons is a thing of the past. Our weather patterns seem to get whackier with each passing year, which is great for breathless television meteorologists warning on a near-daily basis the approach of the next storm of the century, but not so much for those of us planning outdoor parties or events.

We’re adding to the summer fun this year by moving the Chamber’s annual Vine & Dine event from its customary September date to July 20. And to add to the excitement, we have moved the food and wine extravaganza to the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, which will give guests a new, art-themed experience.

There is no doubt that Vine & Dine is a great party, and we hope it is going to turn into an annual not-to-be-missed summer affair. But it also supports an important cause in Oakland County through a partnership with Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan.

By earmarking a portion of the proceeds from Vine & Dine to Gleaners, the event over the years has provided tens of thousands of meals for those in need in our county. According to Gleaners President DeWayne Wells, demand for their services is increasing as the state continues its slow economic recovery, especially in suburban communities.

The Chamber is excited to provide a new option for those planning to stay closer to home this summer. What could be better than a terrific summer party that also benefits an outstanding local charity? For more details on Vine & Dine please visit the Chamber Web site at

Monday, June 13, 2011

Being an intern doesn’t mean administrative aide

A large amount of internships are what students call “file cabinet jobs.” We are lured to these internships by well-known corporations with the promise of gaining vast experience and materials for our portfolios.

Some students spend years with a company that does not allow them to use their learned skills. It is important, especially in this job market, to find an organization that adds to your knowledge.

This issue is not always the company’s fault though. Many students are under the falsification that the bigger the company, the better the resume’ builder. From my experience, those mogul internships sound impressive, but what do they add to a portfolio? Again, from my experience, unless you can photograph filing papers and entering data into a computer there isn’t much you can add to a portfolio.

This year I will be a senior at Central Michigan University studying public relations and public policy. For my profession, internships are key in that they determine whether an organization will hire you in the future.

In 2008, I entered the world of internships. I didn’t do this because I had to, as I was only a freshman in college; I did this because I wanted experience. To my dismay, my first two internships were “file cabinet jobs.”

This time I knew I had to search for a company or organization that hired interns because they actually wanted the assistance. I searched for weeks until I found my current internship.

When I was offered the position with the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber, I had a feeling I was finally going to get away from the file cabinet. The public relations and marketing materials were extremely impressive and I knew I could gain a lot of experience from this organization.

My first task was to give my input on their website on how they could make it more user friendly. I was blown away. For the first time someone actually appreciated my input and not my filing ability. The even more shocking part was that the organization used my suggestions.

It is rare to find a company that respects the knowledge and experiences of an intern. All four individuals on this mighty team have shown more respect and interest in my ideas than any place I have ever worked for. The word mighty may be an understatement as their dedication to the chamber is second to none.

I have been with the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber for just over a month now and couldn’t be more pleased. Since then I have had the opportunity to write, design, and collaborate on publicized materials as well as attend events. I have also met dozens of community leaders providing a great avenue for networking.

It is internships like this one that are needed by so many students, by available to only a small number. To all of the students out there searching for the perfect internship, don’t play a part in the generation of exploited workers. Take the time to investigate your organization and know what they want from you.

By: Vincent Cavataio

Monday, May 23, 2011

Nonprofits are the glue that holds our community together

In a recent interview, Gov. Rick Snyder suggested the nonprofit community could – and should – play a key role in providing some of the support services the state of Michigan can no longer afford to fund. I found his comments interesting not because I disagreed with him, rather it’s been my experience that local nonprofits and charitable organizations and their financial supporters have been doing exactly that in Southeast Michigan for as long as I can remember.

Oftentimes, the only thing preventing more from joining this army of volunteers and benefactors is either a lack of understanding of how to get involved, or an incorrect assumption that they have nothing to offer these groups. We all have varying amounts of time, talent and treasure to offer, and the many groups serving our communities are more than happy to accept any amount of any of the three.

To help get the word out about the many nonprofits and charitable organizations working tirelessly to improve our society, Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber is hosting our Community Leadership Luncheon on Wednesday, June 22. The event includes a mini nonprofit expo, testimonials on the importance of the area business community tapping into these organizations, and a luncheon keynote speech by Huntington Bank’s Mike Fezzey, who has built a career around philanthropy and community involvement.

The luncheon, scheduled for 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at The Reserve, 325 S. Eton in Birmingham, should be a must attend for any person interested in connecting with an area nonprofit either as a volunteer or wanting to learn more about their services, as well as a company owner or manager looking for an opportunity to connect their employees to a charity or looking for volunteer opportunities.

For more details, visit the Chamber Web site at

Monday, May 16, 2011

Improved markets help secure a bright future for local communities

The Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber concluded our Forecast Series program Thursday with a look at trends in the local and national residential and commercial real estate markets. The program, in my humble opinion, was chock-full of relevant and informative content presented by local experts Brian Henry of eTitle and Robert Pliska of Sperry Van Ness.

The overall theme of Pliska’s presentation was that the commercial real estate market hit rock bottom in 2009, and continues to slowly crawl its way back in terms of both vacancy rates and building and property values.

Henry’s crystal ball was less clear when discussing whether we have seen the worst in the home foreclosure rate and declines in residential property values. But he added there are signs that the residential market is stabilizing in the greater Birmingham-Bloomfield area a little ahead of the rest of Oakland County.

Henry’s report, backed by statistical data from Bloomfield Township, confirms another well-worn statement that when it comes to real estate, location is king. Folks want to live, work and play in desirous areas and the Birmingham-Bloomfield community is tops when it comes to quality of life.

This region’s success in many ways is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The residents take great pride in their communities and expect first-rate municipal services and amenities such as parks in return for their investment. The same goes for local schools, both private and public. Residents expect the best possible opportunities for their children, and are willing to pay for it.

Photo: Brian Henry,e-Title

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber is concluding our successful 2011 Forecast Series with the “Real Estate Forecast” presented by eTitle’s Brian Henry and Robert Pliska of the real estate firm Sperry Van Ness. The forecast breakfast is scheduled from 7:30-9:30 a.m. Thursday, May 12, at The Townsend Hotel in downtown Birmingham.

Our real estate forecast always is one of the most anticipated of the series, and this year’s offering will be no different. The Chamber has conducted a Real Estate forecast for years because of the critical role both the residential and commercial property rates play in a community’s overall health.

Because home foreclosures have been such a hot topic in the past two years, we have tapped an expert in this area to discuss both the business and legal aspects surrounding this timely issue. Brian Henry serves as Loan Resolution Counsel for Orlans Associates PC, working with homeowners, lenders and legislators on loan modification processes, short sales and other loss mitigation tools
Joining Henry on the panel is Robert Pliska, a longtime Chamber member and familiar face around town. Pliska serves as a managing director for Sperry Van Ness, specializing in the sale and financing of multifamily, retail, office and industrial properties in the Michigan market.

We at the Chamber are very happy to be able to provide critical information through the Real Estate Forecast that impacts such a large segment of our terrific communities. To register, visit the Chamber’s Web site at

Monday, May 2, 2011

The weather may be frightful, but bring on the Village Fair

Given the wonderful spring weather we continue to experience it is hard to believe the summer festival season is but a few weeks away. Here at the Chamber, we are gearing up for the 48th-annual Village Fair, scheduled for June 2-5 in beautiful downtown Birmingham.

One unique aspect of the Village Fair is the number of local charity and nonprofit groups that benefit from fair proceeds. In addition to being the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber’s major fundraiser, we have been able to share the wealth with nearly 20 local groups that rely on the fair for badly needed funds in these difficult economic times.

In 2010, the Chamber distributed more than $17,000 to 20 charitable organizations, thanks in large part to the generosity of Danny Houston and his Mid America Shows company. And even though rain during three days of the fair dampened profits along with the spirits of some fair-goers, we still are on target to partner with 18 organizations this year.

Discounted Village Fair wristbands are available for $15 until Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 5 p.m., a savings of $3 per wristband. Wristband vouchers can be purchased at the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber office located at 725 S. Adams Rd. Suite 130 Birmingham, Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., and at the Birmingham Bloomfield Credit Union located at 576 E. Lincoln, Birmingham Monday – Thursday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Call the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber at (248) 644-1700 ext. 24 for more information, and we’ll plan to see you at the fair!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The ninth season of the Birmingham Farmers Market is set to kick off in just one week and we're anticipating another successful, fun season. Last year, the market enjoyed its most successful season to date, with measurable growth in both vendors and attendance. We welcomed a 25 percent to 30 percent increase in vendors, and watched the average weekly attendance jump from 1,700 to 2,000.

On two Sundays, we broke records with an astonishing 3,000 in attendance! One thing is clear: The Birmingham community has shown support and appreciation for the abundance of fresh, healthy produce offered at the market, and we're excited to bring it all back next weekend.

Mark your calendar now for special events planned for our 2011 Birmingham Farmers Market season: Health & Fitness Event — June 26; Corn Festival — Aug. 7; Harvest Festival (previously Hay Day) — Sept. 18, and the End of Season Celebration — Oct. 23.

You'll see new faces and products at the market this year, as we've already signed on 10 new vendors to date. Join us for our Opening Day next Sunday, May 1, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in public Parking Lot 6 on the east side of North Old Woodward (across from Salvatore Scallopini Restaurant and Booth Park). You'll find rhubarb, fresh parsnips, lettuce, spinach, green onions, cabbage, beets, radishes, beautiful flowers (hanging baskets, flats and potted arrangements just in time for Mother's Day), and a variety of herbs. The market will run every Sunday, May 1, through Oct. 23. Click here to read more. John Heiney is executive director of the Birmingham Principal Shopping District.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Government Forecast features larger-than-life personalities

I received some interesting feedback regarding my recent observation that most politicians I have met over the years have been hard working, passionate public servants.

Some folks thought, and I’m being kind, that perhaps I was a bit too glowing in my characterization. I invite my skeptics to join me for lunch this Thursday, April 21, to meet and get to know two individuals who are fine representatives of what a public servant should be when the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber hosts its Government Forecast at the Townsend Hotel in downtown Birmingham.

Our featured speakers are L. Brooks Patterson, who has served Oakland County first as a prosecutor and then county executive for the majority of his adult life; and Philip Power, who used his ownership of a group of local newspapers as a powerful public service tool before harnessing his passion and capital to launch The Center for Michigan, a nonpartisan “think and do tank” that is reshaping how the public perceives and participates in the governmental process.

Both Patterson and Power are dynamic individuals who never would be mistaken for wall flowers. In fact, my only concern about Thursday’s program is whether the stage is big enough for both of them.

The program is sure to be chock-full of important and relevant information for our local business leaders whose businesses are greatly impacted by decisions made in Pontiac and Lansing. To find out more about the Government Forecast or to reserve your seat, please visit the Chamber’s Web site at I hope to see you there.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I’m with the government and I’m here to help – really!

People love to complain about their government leaders to the point that being identified as a “politician” is akin to, well, fill in the blank.

But my experience has been that, with few exceptions, our elected officials and the staffs of the various governmental units are committed to improving our quality of life and are decent, hard working public servants.

I believe this is also true in the business world. Sometimes, it simply is a matter of getting that message out or knowing where to look for the help.

To help the local business community take advantage of these opportunities, the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber is using the next installment of our Investepreneur™ Roundtable series to focus on government grants, loans and other services being offered by government agencies at the county, state and federal levels. The session, scheduled for May 24, is aimed at finding crucial support for both start-up businesses and those looking to “graduate” to the second stage of their development.

Panelists include Genevieve Hayes, manager of the business development unit for the state of Michigan’s Department of Technology Management and Budget; and Mary Langhauser, supervisor of Oakland County’s department of Economic Development and Community Affairs. Both of our speakers have generously donated their time to educate our local business leaders on the myriad ways our county, state and federal governments are eager to help assist the entrepreneurial spirit that is becoming a powerful force in our region’s economy. Go to for more details.
Joe Bauman is the President of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber. He welcomes feedback at

Monday, March 21, 2011

Join us at our Legislative Reception on March 24th

As a former journalist, I used to get the same feeling from politics, especially the run up to a big election. I never quite understood how so many of my friends and loved ones could get so jazzed about a big game, or – gasp! —the latest gossip spewing from the reality television show du jour, but paid little mind to something that actually had a true impact on their lives.

That’s why I am absolutely tickled pink with the uproar Gov. Rick Snyder has caused with his state budget proposal. Not because I necessarily agree with his vision for the “new Michigan,” rather that he actually has found a way to engage regular folk in the conversation of what kind of state do we want to live in. Not only are people paying attention, but they actually are weighing in on the issues, which is fantastic.

I am hopeful this important dialogue continues when the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber hosts our Legislative Reception Thursday evening at The Townsend Hotel in downtown Birmingham. The governor’s proposals stretches much further than how state government will operate; they have a huge impact on our cities and school districts as well which look to Lansing for critical funding.

The governor did his part with his budget proposal. Now, the balance of the work rests with our elected state representatives who have to approve the budget, and our local municipal and school leaders who will be left to figure out how to run our schools, cities and villages with whatever funds they receive from Lansing.
So, if you want a chance to offer your two cents worth on what should be spending priorities and what should be cut from the state budget, you have your chance on Thursday evening. The fun starts at 6 p.m. and elected officials representing every level of government have confirmed their attendance. Visit the Chamber’s Web site at for more details and to register.

I can’t wait for Thursday’s discussion, and I hope you join me. Besides, you can always DVR the American Idol results show.

Joe Bauman is President of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber. He welcomes feedback at

Monday, March 7, 2011

What's in store for us? Ask the legislators

Michigan clearly is at a tipping point in terms of the types of support, programs and services that we as residents can expect from our state government. Radical change is the order of the day, and even our elected leaders are having a difficult time articulating what lies ahead for our great state and its people.

Newly elected Gov. Rick Snyder campaigned on a platform of ending “business as usual” when it comes to state government and, boy, did he ever deliver on his promise. The fiscal reforms he has called for in his proposed budget are so sweeping that he seems to have managed to alienate just about every interest group fighting to maintain its part of the budget pie.

To help further the discussion on what the future holds for our state and region, the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber is hosting a Legislative Reception, 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 24, at the Townsend Hotel in downtown Birmingham. The event will allow our members, guests and the general public an opportunity to speak one-on-one with their local elected officials to share their thoughts and offer feedback to the men and women representing them in the various branches of government.

On top of that, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, state Sen. John Pappageorge, state Rep. Chuck Moss and several members of Oakland County government also have confirmed their attendance. And, best yet, the evening comes without a single speech or formal program; rather, just an opportunity to speak directly with those charged with running our schools, cities, villages, townships, county, state and country.

Learn more about the event and find registration information on the chamber's website

Monday, February 21, 2011

Adams square adds to the sense of community

Our current home is much different than the chamber's former perch atop the landmark Astrein's Creative Jewelers store on Maple in the heart of downtown Birmingham. And while our new location cannot replicate the vibrancy of being in the middle of the hustle-and-bustle downtown business district, it offers its own unique atmosphere and an added element being downtown did not: a sense of community.

And did I mention the hundreds of free, convenient parking spots?

This feeling of Adams Square being a little village unto itself did not happen by accident. It has been the vision of center owner Gary Andrus for many years in his quest to build a “community center” within his strip mall.

To further his vision, Andrus regularly holds community events at the center, where all are welcome to come and enjoy the Adams Square experience. His latest effort takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 5, when the center hosts its second annual Community Health Fair.

The health fair is free and open to the public. Guests can receive free, mini-health screenings, chair massages and other health- and wellness-related services. In addition, six health-related seminars will be conducted throughout the day.

The Community Health Fair is an extension of another vision Andrus has for Adams Square: To make it a center for the health-and-wellness community. More than 40 of the businesses located within the center, he said, are directly tied to those industries.

To learn more about the health fair, call the center's offices at (248) 646-5900.

Joe Bauman is president of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber. He welcomes feedback at

Monday, February 14, 2011

Good news is a welcome change

We continue to see signs that our state's woeful economic condition is starting to slowly, gradually improve. That observation was somewhat verified on Thursday at the Chamber's Economic Forecast Luncheon hosted at the Townsend Hotel.

Both featured speakers — Paul Traub from the Federal Reserve Bank and George Mokrzan of Huntington Bancshares, predicted a somewhat rosier picture of the state's economic condition in 2012 and beyond. Sure, the state and our region continue to suffer challenges with our unemployment rate and home foreclosures, but other factors such as manufacturing output are on the rise. And the recently announced bonuses being paid out by the Big Three automakers should provide a decent, short-term stimulus to the local economy.

The nearly 100 attending seemed eager to take away any bit of good news they could get. And they were not disappointed. I think people are tired of being negative and being surrounded by negative news. They want desperately to be able to be more positive about their own future, but also the future of the place they call home. My guess is that is why Chrysler's “Imported from Detroit” ad that ran during the Super Bowl made such a huge splash and was the talk of the town on Monday.

People want to have something to feel good about. And even if it does not translate directly into economic prosperity, there still is great value in having a positive attitude about where you live, play and work. Click here to read complete article. Joe Bauman is president of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber. He welcomes feedback at

Monday, February 7, 2011

Here's a forecast you can count (money) on

Whew! I am so relieved to have survived the second snowstorm of the century in the past three years. And thank goodness for that rogue “dry air pocket” that saved southeast Michigan from sure Armageddon, at least according to the (again) red-faced television weather “forecasters.”

It continues to amaze me just how unpredictable our weather can be, given the arsenal of technology available to today's meteorologists. Maybe that's why we still rely on the Farmer's Almanac and a groundhog to predict our weather.

Speaking of forecasts, the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber kicks off our 2011 Forecast Series on Thursday, Feb. 10, with our Economic Forecast featuring two experts who really know their stuff. Our featured speakers are Paul Traub from the Federal Reserve Bank and Huntington Bank's George Mokrzan. They are noted experts in their respective fields in analyzing and predicting local, regional and national economic trends.

Traub is a business economist for the Federal Reserve of Chicago's Detroit Branch. Traub retired in 2008 as corporate economist for Chrysler. A good part of his job was tracking the economy and forecasting its impact on Chrysler's North American auto sales.

Mokrzan is a vice president and senior economist for Huntington Bancshares Inc.'s Private Financial and Capital Markets group. In his position, he performs macroeconomic analyses of the U.S. and world economies, and developed his own forecasting model to successfully predict major turning points in the economy, and relative industry and sector stock price probabilities.

The forecast luncheon is at 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at the Townsend Hotel in downtown Birmingham. Register at

Joe Bauman is president of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber. He welcomes feedback at

Monday, January 31, 2011

Chamber pleased to announce new directors

The Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber has added Sal Curcuru, Darlene Hines and Kim Robinson to its Board of Directors for three-year terms.

Curcuru is an owner and partner of Farmington Hills-based Curcuru Assoc. CPA, PLC. He has been a Chamber member since 2009 and has served on the Small Business Conference and Professional Edge committees.

Hines is president of Nostalgia Antique Appraisal Services of Bloomfield Hills. She has been a Chamber member since 2006, and has been active on and is a past chair of the Ambassador Committee.

Robinson is vice president of new business development for mBank. She joined the Chamber in 2004 and has been active in the Ambassador and Small Business Conference committees. She works in the bank's Birmingham office.

In addition to the new appointments, Jack Farrow, a vice president with Comerica Bank's Birmingham office, was reappointed to serve an additional three-year term.

For more information e-mail Joe Bauman, president, Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber

Monday, January 17, 2011

Signs that things are warming up

There may be no signs of a winter thaw outside, but things certainly are warming up around metro Detroit.

The North American International Auto Show is in full swing, and by early indications, this year's event is going to be one of the best in years. Consumer confidence is slowly on the rise, the domestic automakers are riding a wave of positive press in terms of vehicle quality and auto sales, and second- and third-tier suppliers are adding jobs as well to give a boost to the badly battered jobs market.

Just as always has been the case, the fate of our region is joined at the hip with the auto industry, whether we want it to be or not. But this time around, maybe the economic rebound can be sustained longer if the region can develop and grow other non-auto related industries to complement our bread and butter jobs maker.

Locally, we at the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber continue to see signs that the economic picture is brightening. New businesses are sprouting up every day, fewer mainstay companies are closing their doors, and we are receiving a steady stream of requests for new business ribbon cuttings and grand opening announcements.
One particular bright spot continues to be the restaurant scene in downtown Birmingham. For the most part the existing eateries seem to be holding their own, and there is no shortage of new restaurants either opening, or awaiting requests for bistro licenses from the city of Birmingham.

Just last week, three Birmingham restaurants - Tallulah Wine Bar & Bistro, Luxe Bar and Zazio's - were included among a list of the top 10 restaurants to open in Metro-Detroit in 2010. We are happy to count all three as members of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber, and are happy to share their success story.

Another new restaurant to hit the Birmingham dining scene in the past year is South Bar. With its South Beach vibe and menu to match, it's a surefire way to escape the mid-winter blues if only for a couple of hours.

The Chamber is holding our first Business After Hours of 2011 at South Bar from 5:30-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 19, and we would love to have you join us say good riddance to Michigan winter for a while. Details for the After Hours, and all of the Chamber's upcoming events, can be found at

Joe Bauman is president of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber. He welcomes feedback at

Monday, January 10, 2011

New series focuses on finding funds

One of the great things about marking a new year is the opportunity for a fresh start. We can make New Year's resolutions, clean out a basement or spare closet, and rededicate ourselves to a task, a goal, or an earlier commitment.

For many of us on a professional level, the economic downturn and resulting job losses in the last couple of years have forced a career change. Moreover, it has created a boomlet of entrepreneurial spirit as scores of people have decided to go into business for themselves and pursue a long held passion that had been kept under wraps in the past under the “security” of more traditional employment.

To help further drive this entrepreneurial spirit, the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber is partnering with the Miller Canfield law firm on a four-part series to help these budding businesses find the necessary capital to either launch or new venture or grow it to the next level.

Typically, our Investepreneur Roundtable series had focused on a particular industry where investors and business owners were brought together to explore growth options. We are changing that this year to focus instead on the many traditional and nontraditional funding sources available to business startups. And our financing experts will be on hand to provide helpful advice on how to go about applying for financing and what pitfalls to avoid during the process.

The first segment, scheduled for Feb. 15, will focus on financing options available at banks, credit unions and venture capital firms. On May 24, we will explore the myriad government loan and grant programs available to startup and second stage businesses. To read the complete article click here.

Joe Bauman is president of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber. He welcomes feedback at