Throughout the month of April, WDET is focusing on Canton as part of its “Crossing the Lines” series. The project examines what separates us and unites us as a region.
Canton has seen dramatic growth in recent years, both in terms of residents, and in terms of businesses.
Thomas Paden is the president of the Canton Chamber of Commerce. He spoke with WDET’s Jerome Vaughn about the business climate in the township.
Thomas Paden: The Canton Chamber of Commerce – it’s a non-profit organization. It’s a member-driven organization where business members join our organization and where they will receive various benefits and resources that we give to them. Our primary purpose is to help our businesses in the community to gain added exposure — to get connected with other businesses and to also gain exposure through letting residents know they’re here to do business as well. We do that through an array of resources or benefits, I should say. On the foundational level, (our goal) is to make sure that we as an organization do our job to help our members connect with other business owners in the community. We do that through networking opportunities where businesses or businesses owners or executives can come and network and really start to grow their clientele or customer base through these grassroots efforts to network.
WDET: What kind of business becomes a member of the chamber?
Paden: We will have businesses from the one-person entrepreneur, to the mom-and-pop shop, all the way up to a Fortune 500 company — large companies.
WDET: One of the issues we’ve been hearing a lot from Canton residents is the rate of growth – the rate of development. Canton is close to 100,000 residents and probably will be over when the census is taken next year. How does that growth play into the growth of businesses and how do you expect that to play out as this growth continues in the near future?
TP: So, the growth that we see between our business industry and our residential growth – you can’t have one without the other. Both are — maybe symbiotic is the right word to use. You have certain businesses that move to the community because they’re counting roof tops and the number of roof tops is expanding. On the flip side of that, people are moving here because of the business climate, because of the economy of the community. And when you think about some of the larger industries, these larger companies move into our community and now they have a wonderful place for their employees to live as well. So, it’s a cycle of growth – it’s what I call it. You have a great business climate that then yields a healthy residential climate as well.
WDET: When you think about retail, Ikea is one of the businesses that comes right to mind when you hear the name Canton. From your perspective, how are smaller businesses, mom-and-pop shops fitting in to the overall picture. If you go down Ford Road, you’re seeing Target. You’re seeing Meijer. You’re seeing Ikea. What are you hearing from smaller businesses in the mix?
TP: Let me first start by saying, I think our smaller businesses are the backbone of this community. They’ve been here before some of the big box retailers moved in. And they are still here today and we embrace our small business community.
Sometimes, in communities such as this, when you have some of the big box stores or businesses that move into town, maybe sometimes a small business could feel threatened. But, you have to look at the opportunity, and when some of the big box stores move into town, how do we capitalize on the draw that the big boxes bring in?
That was one of things that happened when Ikea moved to town. We’re home to the only Ikea in the state of Michigan and so, in that sense, Ikea did help put Canton on the map. That is something we can tout. How do we capitalize on this opportunity? How do we capitalize on these visitors coming to our community, some of whom may have never been to Canton before. They come to Ikea. They come to Ford Road and Haggerty, but we don’t want them to stop there. How do we pull them further into the community? How do we pull them further down Ford Road or up Canton Center or over to Cherry Hill? How do we be strategic in capitalizing on this visitor base that we have coming?
Why did we choose Canton? Canton was selected as a featured area for Crossing the Lines due to its dramatic economic and developmental growth, as well as its rapidly increasing diversity.