New Edina Chamber of Commerce president Lori Syverson is positively bubbling with fresh ideas and plans for our community. “I’ve always wanted to be in a place where I could effect change,” she says, “but at my old job with US Bank there were thousands of employees, so I really couldn’t do that.”
The chamber position was a dream come true for the 25-year Edina resident, taking advantage of many of her interests and areas of expertise including community involvement, journalism, marketing, public relations and local politics. Syverson has a journalism degree from Marquette University as well as a background in the hospitality industry. Thirty years ago she helped her parents open Albanese’s Road House restaurant in Brookfield, Wis., and the eatery is still going strong. “For a family-owned restaurant that is not just surviving but thriving in this economy, it’s great,” she says.
“My first order of business is to get a pulse on our membership and ask them how we can help,” says Syverson. Her previous eight years were spent as manager of client marketing and analysis with US Bank, where she had an important epiphany after a co-worker expressed impatience that the economy wasn’t returning to normal quickly enough. “This is the new normal,” Syverson insists, “and businesses need to understand that they can no longer sit back and let things happen. My role with the chamber is to help businesses better prepare in this climate for continued success and growth.” Syverson particularly emphasizes the need for businesses to be comfortable with change. Syverson likens the chamber to a toolbox that provides Edina businesses and community members with a wide range of services, expertise and programs that facilitate growth and economic health. One new program geared to small and medium-sized business development is called Competitive Edge and offers consultation in specific areas such as employee health care options, human resource issues and how to use social media on a limited budget. The chamber has enlisted Mankato State University’s Edina campus to provide IT services, including optimizing iPad capabilities, PowerPoint training and technology-related marketing efforts.
The new MSP Export Initiative is geared toward doubling exports out of the Twin Cities area by the year 2017. The chamber and Edina Mayor Jim Hovland have volunteered to be the pilot city; as such, Edina will determine best practices for other communities to duplicate. The chamber is also launching a TV show on channel 16 called Enterprise Edina, which premieres this month, that will focus on local businesspeople, using a question-and-answer format. Tune in for fun local-interest programs such as a cooking lesson from Salut Bar Américain or Mozza Mia and fitness tips for people over age 50 from local wellness center Welcyon.
The chamber helps small to medium-sized businesses grow, but also partners with large companies to help them connect to the community. “So many amazing bigger businesses have made a commitment to economic development issues in Edina,” Syverson reports. Among these companies are accounting firm Abdo, Eick & Meyers, the Goff investment group, BMO Harris Bank, Hellmuth & Johnson law firm and Fairview Southdale Hospital. One of their most significant contributions is participation in Grow Minnesota/Grow Edina, which connects top-level management with small business owners. A student internship program is also in the works. “I’m a big supporter of experiential learning at the high school level,” says Syverson. “We can offer students real-world work experience and they can begin to build their own business relationships.”
Syverson is particularly excited about the BEER group, a creative collaboration with neighboring Bloomington, Eden Prairie and Richfield that hosts joint events. Edina’s chamber will host the membership meeting in March, to which Syverson has invited the president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank to discuss interest rates and his take on business in 2013
Syverson succeeded Arrie Larsen Manti, who held the post for 10 years. “Arrie was amazing,” says Syverson. “Even though she was retiring, she stayed on another month to show me the ropes and make sure I was comfortable.” Syverson credits Manti’s strong foundation with allowing her to initiate so many new projects. Manti herself is planning to move back to Milwaukee, to be closer to her 85-year-old mother and 87-year-old mother-in-law. She and her husband Tom look forward to traveling the country in a mobile home with their two cats, Madison and Harley. “We are in retirement mode,” says Manti, “which means we are busier now than we were when we were working!”
Syverson’s love affair with Edina dates back 25 years, and she is ecstatic to take a high-profile role in the community now. “My favorite place in Edina changes every week,” she confesses. “I love Centennial Lakes, Jason’s Deli and the farmer’s market. And the Art Center! Edina is a perfect aggregation of opportunity and community—it has everything necessary to build a healthy, strong environment. I want to be a part of that.”
The Edina Chamber’s annual gala takes place February 9. The theme this year is Casino! Guests can play a variety of games including blackjack, baccarat, Texas Hold ’Em and pai gow using Edina Chamber of Commerce “fun money,” which Syverson likens to Monopoly money. There will be a high-roller room, a selection of scotch and cigars, and a photo booth. The gala is open to the public. The chamber encourages businesses to buy a table and invite employees. Contact the chamber at 952.806.9060 if you’d like to attend. 3300 Edinborough Way Ste. 150; edinachamber.com