Blog: John Petz

The island model of development, where the workplace, living space, and businesses are separated by gulfs of highway and five-lane roads, has fallen out of favor, but zoning regulations haven't kept up with the changing tide. John Petz, director of real estate and public affairs at Domino's Farms, writes on this issue and on bringing young leadership into the fold.

Calling Young Leadership

I had the privilege of serving as the chairman of the board of directors of the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti Regional Chamber (A2Y Chamber) this past year – a personally rewarding experience.  Since the merger of the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Area Chambers of Commerce in 2010 into the Regional Chamber, we have worked diligently to expand business opportunities for our members; create relevant programming; be an effective and vocal advocate on business policy issues; and blend two distinct organizations into a more efficient operation for our membership.

One of the early initiatives of the board was to create a young professionals group.  We weren't thinking about just social gatherings, but instead a way to engage younger workers to help them be the leaders of tomorrow (or sometimes even today).  We observed that in our fast-paced global world, younger people were not participating in community institutions the same way previous generations had.  We understood that we need to both make the Chamber relevant in the 21st century – an ongoing effort, but also provide more effective opportunities to allow younger workers meaningful engagement.  An additional objective was to introduce this younger generation to some of the traditional civic organizations and the role they have in making our communities the kind of places they are and their place in nurturing their future.

We had a great early champion in this effort in Rebecca Lopez Kriss, a dynamic young leader (who sadly left for Philadelphia to launch her career – but talent retention is a whole other discussion).  As may be expected, some of the initial events were business networking and social focused, but this helped people come together in a relaxed manner (except during the kickball league competitions).  To foster a unique identity, the Chamber branded the group A2Y Converge.  Since then, Bilal Saeed and Barrie Kiser Brown have picked up the reins of leadership – two talented and energetic younger members of the Chamber board (along with some yeoman-like effort from the Chamber staff's Rebecca Woodward).  One of the exciting programming additions this year is a series of intimate meetings with seasoned business leaders to let A2Y Converge members gain insight into issues ranging from career advancement, industry best practices and advancing your cause.  With the multiple demands on people's time, we hope this is a value enhancing experience that people want to invest their time in.

The hope of the Chamber board is that the A2Y Converge initiative helps the younger workers in our community advance their prospects in business and life.  As I think we know, especially in our Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti community, quality of life is defined and enhanced by the passionate engagement of our people.  At the A2Y Chamber, we look forward to engaging you to make our region the best place to live and work.

A quick note on serving on boards: if you are truly dedicated to the mission of the organization, you will invest far more time and effort than you would expect or be led to believe when you are recruited – though I would say that the time is well spent with the people you interact with and the issues you get to address.