New director reinventing Fairfield Chamber of Commerce

Beverly Balaz, recently-appointed executive director of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, at her desk at 1597 Post Road, looking out over downtown Fairfield. (Laura Modlin Photo)

Beverly Balaz, recently-appointed executive director of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, at her desk at 1597 Post Road, looking out over downtown Fairfield. (Laura Modlin Photo)

When Beverly Balaz became the new executive director of the Chamber of Commerce June 24 she had one focus: reinvention.

And she is enjoying making that happen.

“I come into work every day and think, this is great,” Balaz said.

Balaz, who previously focused on running businesses, now wants to help businesses grow and help the town flourish.

She is focusing on three things for the fresh start she wants to give the chamber.

First, she is sending a survey to members and non-members asking about their needs and wants.

Second, she would like to expand the board of directors, recruiting more and different people: “A cross-section of business professionals and a variety of specialty talents and skills,” Balaz said.

She hopes that doing this will jumpstart a new chamber and what its wants to achieve.

“I want to bring people on board from different areas [of Fairfield],” she said, including Southport, Greenfield Hills and Black Rock Turnpike.

“[These areas all] have different needs,” Balaz said.

Understanding those needs is part of her strategic plan.

Her third focus is to work “very, very closely” with the town. She has been in talks with First Selectman Mike Tetreau and Director of Economic Development Mark Barnhart.

Their joint focus is to help businesses grow and to move into the town in the future.

“We’re coming together in a nice partnership,” Balaz said. “I love working with the town.”

Putting students to work

A Bridgeport resident, Balaz has experience in education and is excited to work with the town’s high schools and universities to help include students in the success of area businesses.

“Education is key,” she said.

She has discussed a scholarship programs with Schools Superintendent Dr. David Title. She said she would also like to facilitate internships.

“High school seniors have about three weeks in May when they intern at businesses,” she said, adding that the experience could be made better if they did their internships at local businesses.

Balaz has also talked to people at Fairfield University about finding an intern to work at the chamber.

“They could help us with what we’re doing in the office,” she said.

She said it is a good idea to start children and young adults on a path to success early.

“I love education,” she said. “I want students to understand business.”

Adult education

Balaz would also like to help adults to start their own business, reinvent themselves, or improve what they already have.

“Not everyone knows how to put together a strategic plan,” Balaz said.

She wants to provide workshops and lectures for town and area businesses.

“Whether you want to open a business or expand a business, we can help,” she said.

Balaz has a lot of ideas.

“[For instance,] social media may not be used to maximum advantage,” she said.

Whatever the business needs, she wants to be there for them.

And she wants people to know where to find the chamber and to drop by if they like.

“People are getting to know where we are,” she said.

A collaboration

Balaz said an essential ingredient for success is Marybeth Claflin, the chamber’s office manager, who started a month after Balaz.

“We’re both new,” Balaz said.

And they’re making progress together.

“It’s a nice partnering,” she said.

But Balaz wants to work with everyone in the town to strengthen the economy. She thinks there are a lot of businesses coming into town.

“I’m just so excited,” she said.

Balaz believes that things are looking up.

“Fairfield is doing really well right now,” she said. “Fairfield has a great vibe for businesses and residents.”

Balaz is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University and earned her bachelor of science degree in elementary education. She has an extensive business background and has held a variety of senior executive positions throughout her career, most recently as the director of education for Junior Achievement of Western Connecticut.

The Fairfield Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit that gets its funds primarily through membership and fund-raising events. You do not have to be a resident of Fairfield to be a member.

To learn more, go to fairfieldctchamber.com or call 203-255-1011.

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