Executive Director, Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce: Age 33
Jordan Hart was attending Holyoke Community College and waiting tables at the Yankee Pedlar in Holyoke in early 2013, not really knowing she wanted to do with her life.
She saw an ad for a part-time administrative assistant at the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, thought about applying, but didn’t, because she thought the job would interfere with her college schedule. But a chance conversation with the chamber’s director, Kathy Anderson, when she came to the Pedlar for lunch prompted her to change her mind.
And that decision changed the course of her career.
Indeed, a decade and a few different positions with the chamber later, Hart is now in Anderson’s former role. And she’s not just leading the chamber, but leading it through an aggressive and much-needed change of course.
Under her direction, the chamber has become more responsive and also more inclusive, a place for business owners of all backgrounds, languages, and experiences.
“I worked for a chamber for a long time, and over the years, I’d seen how businesses had continued to change, but chambers had not changed with business,” she explained. “We weren’t seeing a lot of young entrepreneurs, we were not getting a lot of new members, and we were seeing members drop out because they felt they were not getting value for their membership. And we also weren’t doing much to engage the Latino business community in Holyoke. So I became really motivated to make sure we were a hub for business support and a bridge between Holyoke and its business community.”
Among her many initiatives, Hart has made the chamber an active part of many events and activities, including Holyoke Pride, the Paper City Food Festival, and the Great Holyoke Brick Race. She has also undertaken a rebranding, giving the chamber a new, more modern logo.
Meanwhile, she has made the agency more responsive to the needs of solo-preneurs and startups, which are a huge part of the Holyoke economy, with one-on-one technical assistance available to members free of charge.
Over the years, Jordan herself has become a fixture in Holyoke, lending time and talent to such initiatives as the food festival, the MIFA Victory Theater Entrepreneurial Strike Team, the city’s 150th-anniversary celebration, and the Holyoke Transformative Development Initiative with MassDevelopment.
When not doing any of that, she may be found playing softball, rollerskating, or bartending at Brennan’s, the legendary bar in downtown Holyoke.
In short, Holyoke has become more than a focus; it’s become a passion.