Now that the Forest Park Village Council officially signed off on giving the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce $40,000 a year to help it market the village for the next three years, the chamber is eager to get to work.
The organization has long acted as the village’s de facto marketing department for years. The infusion of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal stimulus funding gave Forest Park a pool of money to support those efforts.
But getting money to the chamber took several tries. The village council requested a marketing plan, and then delayed issuing the money after another ARPA-funded project – the new Mohr Community Center — ran over budget.
On July 24, the village council approved an ARPA spending plan, including the marketing funding for the chamber. At the time, Village Administrator Moses Amidei said if the council approved the plan, he would issue the first installment of the first year’s funding as soon as possible.
The chamber’s first priority is to put together a new resident guide, and it is already developing a digital marketing campaign.
According to the marketing plan chamber President Neil Rembos presented to the village council back in February, they planned to spend $6,000 on digital marketing, $12,000 on printing Welcome New Residents guides “to drive new residents to FP [sic] to patronize our businesses,” $6,000 on digital billboard ads, $10,000 on social media promotions, $4,000 to team up with Visit Oak Park to put digital ads on streaming services and $2,000 for in-person events such as a Restaurant Week.
Chamber Executive Director Laurie Kokenes confirmed to the Review that the plan remains the same – but they are allowing themselves some flexibility.
“If a great opportunity presents itself along the way, we may take advantage of it if there is room in the budget,” she said.
The new resident guides will be mailed to people based on the information from the Data Axle USA, a marketing data compiler.
“We’ll also begin working on branding messages, social media and other digital marketing,” Kokenes said.
She said that the chamber already started working with Visit Oak Park to put together a digital ad campaign that will kick off in September. They are still working on the details of the social media campaigns.
“We will be able to take advantage of [Visit Oak Park’s] contract with a digital ad manager,” Kokenes said.
The chamber will also be taking advantage of the billboard where Desplaines Avenue passes over Eisenhower Expressway.
Amidei originally planned to give the chamber the first $20,000 on May 1. In October, the council would review how the money was spent, and, if there are no issues, Amidei would give the chamber another $20,000 in November.
It’s unclear whether the delay in giving the chamber the initial funding will delay future installments, but the nearly three-month delay didn’t dampen the chamber’s enthusiasm for the plan.
“I really would love to thank the mayor and the commissioners,” Rembos told the Review. “They really collaborated with us on supporting the chamber and supporting the community.”
“We are very grateful for our partnership with the village and for this funding,” Kokenes said. “These funds allow us keep Forest Park’s name at the forefront and strengthen the local economy through promoting its unique character, showcasing our business community, and raising awareness of key events and all there is to do in Forest Park.”