Holyoke Chamber’s new boss believes in community, collaboration

  • Soniah Gonzalez, left, financial manager, and Andréa Marion, executive director of the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, provide a growing range of services at the Chamber office at 177 High St. in Holyoke. Stephen Fay Photo

  • Andréa Marion, executive director of the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce. Stephen Fay Photo

For the Gazette
Published: 3/8/2020 5:46:28 PM

HOLYOKE — Andréa Marion has an abiding faith in the power of community.

Marion, recently named executive director of the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, believes good things happen when people get together.

“I love to have a place where people can come together and have that community,” she said.

Toward that end, Marion plans to expand the Chamber’s farmers market held Thursdays at Veterans Memorial Park. When the weekly market returns in late spring, expect to see entertainment and food trucks along with the traditional array of farmers.

Community-building gatherings for Chamber breakfasts, Business After Hours, business expos, Coffee and Connections, leadership sessions and the Chamber Cup golf tournament are among the people-pooling events on her calendar.

Marion, 40, recognizes that face-to-face gatherings are not the only way people connect in the modern age. Socializing is ideal, but social media is a major player, too. Marion is investing energy and creativity into the Chamber’s website, Facebook and Instagram presence. She’s also started a weekly podcast, accessible on the website, on which she will interview Chamber members and other guests.

Another priority is getting businesses to work together.

“I’m all about cross-pollination,” she said.

She’s not alone. The Chamber board also believes in outreach and cooperation. Board chairman Kevin McCaffrey said Marion “will play a key role in expanding collaborations and partnerships throughout the Greater Holyoke area, both to support our members and to build a stronger community.”

McCaffrey, director of government and community relations and special projects at Mount Holyoke College, said of Marion, “her experience, her connections to the community, and her commitment to success will be key to our efforts to promote Holyoke as a great place to do business, to work and to live.

“In her first few weeks, she will be meeting with our members, with local leaders, with city officials, and others to discuss how we can work together as effectively as possible to highlight Holyoke's many strengths.”

Marion started work Feb. 24. McCaffrey said, “We had been without an executive director for some time.” She will be formally introduced to the membership March 18 at the Chamber’s annual breakfast kickoff to the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. The breakfast will be held at the Log Cabin beginning at 7:30 a.m.

The new executive director will work closely with Soniah Gonzalez, the Chamber’s finance manager. Gonzalez has worked for the Chamber for the past 11 years and is, herself, a member and business owner. Besides keeping the books and recruiting new members, she is the go-to person for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the city. She also represents the Chamber to Holyoke’s Latino business community.

Marion is a Lowell native. She earned a degree in psychology at Bay Path University, where she was president of the Honor Society. She is the former executive director of Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry. Noting the arrivals of two new restaurants on High Street and new life in the old mills, Marion said this is “an exciting time” in Holyoke.

“I like to think about the possibilities,” she said.

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