By Leslie Ballard
“I’m excited – he’s got the right skill set for the role of Executive Director” is how Allegan Area Chamber of Commerce President Amy Buzzell described her impression of Aaron Steinmann, who assumed those duties on March 7.
Steinmann sees Allegan as “an amazing community with the river, the downtown and so many opportunities to expand.” He adds that “I’ve come in with an open mind and want to listen to the business community, especially coming out of Covid, to determine what they need.”
He sees the Chamber as being the connecting thread between businesses and between business and the community. Part of his experience has been working with small and larger communities to help create those networks. He also knows about operating a business as he established Brewhaus Media in 2017 where he works as a marketing and brand development consultant.
Steinmann believes “there’s a strong foundation here, but I want to make those connections even stronger because they will be incredibly important as Allegan moves forward.”
“He’s well rounded, brings great ideas to the table, and his marketing and communication background make it seems like he’s going to be a great fit,” Buzzell added.
Steinmann, who came to Michigan in 2015 to work as Marketing Manager for Bell’s Brewery, began his career in his home state of Iowa as the Marketing and Communications Director for the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area.
His work with Silos & Smokestacks involved building relationships with more than 100 formal partners, along with countless informal partners across a 37-county region. He focused on strengthening community connections while striving to tell the story of agriculture for the area. Steinmann’s duties also included creating a marketing program as well as the development of a partner communication program.
Steinman has also served on two tourism boards, a Main Street Board and received the Key to the City from Savanna, Illinois for his work as Community Development Coordinator through an AmeriCorps VISTA program.
Previous Chamber Executive Director Tim Perrigo shares Buzzell’s enthusiasm. “I am excited for the future of the Allegan Area Chamber of Commerce under Aaron’s direction. He has a great skill set and considerable experience in regional economic and business development, marketing, and branding. His fresh perspective and new ideas will bring renewed energy to Chamber programming and member benefits.”
He and his fiancé first became familiar with Allegan through hiking at the game reserve. When the Chamber position was posted, he thought his skills and experience made him a contender.
“Even though we live 20 miles from Allegan now, I don’t want to be seen as an outsider but as part of the community. Coming from outside the community gives you a different perspective, which coupled with the knowledge and history of Allegan that others have can create good things.”
He would like to revisit the survey conducted in 2019 and perhaps do a new one because the Covid years may have changed what the local businesses want and need. Some other projects he hopes to tackle are a new website and a Chamber management system.
Steinmann is looking forward to the Chamber Board’s meeting on the 17th, the first in-person meeting the Chamber has had in quite awhile.
Steinmann was one of four candidates who interviewed for the part-time position. He succeeds Perrigo who tendered his letter of resignation on December 9, 2021 and has been helping with the transition since his last day on December 31. “It has been the honor of my life, these past nine-plus years, to work with our members to grow their businesses in the promotion of economic and community development,” he stated.
What’s next for Perrigo? “This is the perfect time to evaluate the next stage of my career and map out how I want to spend the next 20 years of my professional life. I have joined the phenomenal team at Gorden-Chappel Funeral Residence on a part-time basis to give me the time to make a very intentional decision as to that «what›s next.» I am exploring a myriad of opportunities including, possibly, an entrepreneurial endeavor of my own.»