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Community News

Fairlawn Chamber celebrating 50 years

9/19/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

The Fairlawn Area Chamber of Commerce had six permanent signs made that were recently posted onto welcome signs at entrances into the city of Fairlawn to commemorate the group’s 50-year legacy of community service. This one can be seen on North Revere Road.
Photo: Ariel Hakim
FAIRLAWN — When a group of civic leaders got together nearly 50 years ago to form what would become the Fairlawn Area Chamber of Commerce (FACC), less then 5,000 people lived in what is today the city of Fairlawn, Interstate 77 didn’t yet run through the area and many roads were still dirt. Summit Mall wouldn’t open for another two years.

The FACC is recognizing its 50th anniversary during its monthly luncheon Oct. 14 with an extended meeting, which will be a celebration of the history of the group, as well as the communities it represents, according to Lisa Gould, who is serving a one-year term as FACC president.

Former Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel, now the vice president of strategic engagement at The University of Akron, will be the keynote speaker at the luncheon, taking place at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn, 3180 W Market St.

During the luncheon, proclamations from the city of Fairlawn and Copley Township, as well as a letter of recognition from Bath Township, will be read. Tables will be set up to display histories of those communities, and government officials representing those entities have been invited, said Gould.

Lucky Shoes and Shulan’s Jewelers — the FACC’s two oldest members — also will provide displays of historic mementos, she said.

Also at the luncheon, a video presentation of the group’s history will be shown. In addition, the group’s past presidents and seven Circle of Excellence members — businesses that have provided the FACC with additional support — will be recognized.

To celebrate the milestone another way, the FACC had permanent signs made that have been posted at the six entrances into Fairlawn, displaying the group’s logo and commemorating its 50-year legacy of community service, said Gould.

Highlights of the group’s history

According to FACC officials, the organization’s letters of incorporation are dated Nov. 12, 1963. A group of men gathered by Fairlawn’s first mayor, Joe Poticny, formed the Fairlawn Village Business Men’s Group, which was soon renamed the Fairlawn Village Chamber of Commerce. “Village” was dropped from the organization’s name in 1967, ahead of Fairlawn becoming a city in 1971.

The Chamber actually had a lot to do with Summit Mall’s opening in 1965 — the first mall in Ohio, according to Gould — providing input prior to and during the development of the mall.

By 1979, the city had 1,200 businesses and a population of more than 19,000, but at the outset of the 1980s, the Chamber had dwindled to less than a handful of active members.

However, by 1986, the group had begun to revive and started renting office space at Fairlawn City Hall. The FACC’s first executive director, Elaine Malin, who served for 17 years in that position, was hired in 1987.

The same year, the Chamber held its first After 5 event.

Also during the ’80s and ’90s, the FACC supported Fairlawn’s recycling program, the Copley Bandstand Music Committee, the Professional Bowlers Association Tournament of Champions at Riviera Lanes and the 25th anniversary celebration of Summit Mall.

In the early ’90s, the Chamber was a sponsor in establishing Fort Island Park.

Major community benefits

The FACC has been holding an annual holiday auction for more than 20 years, said Gould.

Last year, the event raised $25,000, she said. Half of the proceeds go back to the FACC for operating costs and special projects, and the rest is awarded, based on their applications, to nonprofit organizations that are members of FACC.

This year, the event will take place Dec. 9.

Golfing for Education is also held annually, a four-person scramble in June, put on in partnership with the Copley-Fairlawn Schools Foundation. All of the money raised from that event goes back to the schools, she said. Last year, four graduating high school seniors were each awarded $1,000 scholarships toward their college endeavors, Gould added.

Every other year, the group also puts on a Community Expo held at the auxiliary gymnasium at Copley High School, bringing together businesses and families, most recently in May.

The FACC also played a major role in getting back the city of Fairlawn’s Independence Day fireworks display through a donation to the Fairlawn Foundation, said Gould. This year, they were one of the lead sponsors of the event, she added.

The FACC today

The FACC’s mission is to provide opportunities for members to grow their businesses through networking events and participating in community, government and business activities.

The FACC is governed by a board of directors of nine to 11 members, which includes the executive director. Polly Riffle serves as executive director today, the only paid employee of the organization.

Due to efforts among membership committee members, over the past couple of years the group has grown from around 270 members to its current 309, said Gould.

Members hail mostly from Bath, Copley and Fairlawn, she added, but the FACC also has members from Beachwood, Twinsburg and Wadsworth who attend meetings, she noted.

On average, 175 to 180 people attend the group’s monthly luncheons, the cost of which is included in annual dues of $265, she said.

During the luncheons, a three-course meal is provided, along with beverages and a 20- to 30-minute speaker.

The mayor of Fairlawn comes to talk to the group every January to give a State of the City address, and during the summer, the group hears a State of the Schools address from superintendents of both Revere Local and Copley-Fairlawn City school districts.

Also included in annual dues are After 5 and Before 9 events, other opportunities to network and for Chamber members to highlight their businesses.

“It’s a win-win thing. If businesses do business with each other, then the community is stronger. If a community is strong, it can attract more business. I believe it just kind of builds upon itself,” said Gould.

For more information on the FACC, visit the website at www.fairlawnareachamber.org. To attend a luncheon as a guest, contact a member or make a reservation through the website. The cost to attend a luncheon for a nonmember is $20.

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