Most people are familiar with Chambers of Commerce. Most cities and towns have them. Surprisingly, a lot of people believe that Chambers are part of the local government. In fact, they’re actually classified as Not-For-Profits, or 501 (C) 6 organizations.
Michigan City has an excellent Chamber that is currently helmed by Mary Jo Orlowski. Orlowski grew up in the area, and while she moved away for a time to attend Indiana University in Bloomington, she returned a few years ago to head the Michigan City Chamber of Commerce.
After graduating with a Masters in Clinical Exercise Physiology, Orlowski worked in the health industry and traveled half the month before accepting a position with the Bloomington, Indiana Chamber as Director of Member Services. Eventually, she heard that the Michigan City Chamber was looking for a new president.
Upon accepting the job as president of the Michigan City Chamber of Commerce in 2016, Orlowski set to work driving the Chamber towards improving the quality of life for members of the community.
“[Michigan City’s] Chamber is different in the fact that we have an Education Foundation Fund whose mission is to help support the educational efforts of the MCAS Corporation,” said Orlowski. “We provide funding for various programs and projects.”
Partnering with the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City, in which she is a board member, the MC Chamber provides transportation to the International Manufacturing Trade Show in Chicago. Orlowski feels that it is important for students to see manufacturing at the highest levels and be exposed to professions they might not otherwise be.
“Education and workforce development are key items that the Chamber supports,” Orlowski explains. ”We have an Education Foundation Fund through the Unity Foundation. Their goal is to further student education and prepare them to enter the workforce.”
Orlowski and the EDCMC, along with the Chamber, recognize that the bedrock of economic growth in any city is to invest in the education system.
“Now we’re looking at K-12,” added Orlowski. “We start the education process even sooner than high school. In Michigan City, we have the STEM program in the elementary and middle school system. They expose the kids to science and math programs that they normally wouldn’t have.”
Investing in children is the future of any community. Orlowski believes that if groups like the Chamber can increase the quality of life, infrastructure, and connectivity in the community, then a dynamic economy will develop and cause more members of the community to stay and enter the local workforce.
Orlowski is continually looking to improve the education and workforce development of Michigan City. By sitting on various boards, like the EDCMC, Orlowski tries to help bring positive exposure to the school system by hosting the first ever La Porte County Educator of the Year Awards, New Teachers Luncheon, and bringing exposure to the Education Foundation Fund.
“The other thing we support is the Promise Scholarship Program,” Orlowski explained. “If a student attends school all the way through high school, in the Michigan City proper area, they are awarded a certain dollar amount scholarship that they can use for college.”
According to Orlowski , Chambers are there to help attract business, talent, and be part of a dynamic and creative culture that supports an infrastructure for their members to succeed. With people like Orlowski, and groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the EDCMC, Michigan City is poised to continue to have an economic renaissance in the near and extended future.
Michigan City, IN 46360
Visit Economic Development Corporation of Michigan City Partner Profile