Business South Orange Towns

Mr. Smith Goes to South Orange: Former Irvington Mayor Takes on South Orange Chamber

Wayne Smith

The South Orange Chamber of Commerce has been a bit sleepy in recent years, but it’s roaring back with a vengeance now with former Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith at the helm.

Locals can enjoy the South Orange Chamber’s renaissance at an event at Papillon 25 at 25 Valley Street in South Orange Village Center on Thursday, May 26 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. (members, $10; non-members $20). RSVP to Smith at 973-204-5639 or [email protected].

Smith is famous for his tenure as the longest serving mayor in the history of Irvington, a “very urban” town of 60,000-plus residents — the third largest municipality in Essex County. (Smith also served as President of The New Jersey Conference of Mayors and President of The New Jersey Urban Mayors Association.)

“We were in state takeover, finances were a wreck,” said Smith, speaking of Irvington when he took over as mayor in 2002. However, he said that “a proactive development strategy and a growing economy” helped put Irvington on a sounder path. Smith said that many projects initiated during his administration are still “coming to fruition.”

Although Smith continues to live in Irvington, he works in South Orange at the BCB Community Bank branch on Valley Street in South Orange as a Community Specialist. He’s been President of the Chamber for just a few months, working to launch the website (thesouthorangechamber.com) and kickstart networking events — starting with the May 26 Business Card Exchange at Papillon 25.

“I’m honored to help the South Orange business community,” said Smith, noting that BCB Community Bank has an ethos of community service that aids him in this pursuit. (South Orange BCB Bank Branch Manager Claudine Baptiste serves on the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce.)

“We’re actually looking at doing a couple of things,” said Smith, of the rejuvenated chamber. The first is to grow Chamber membership, and the second is “having these events — meet-ups, networking, business card exchanges — getting to know each other.” Touting the importance of face-to-face meetings in the age of virtual overload, Smith expects the Chamber to be producing networking events “at least quarterly.”

Smith said that the South Orange Chamber also hopes to partner with the new Small Business Development Center coming to Seton Hall University.

“We want to promote that to the South Orange business community, including their array of business development services.” Smith noted that South Orange businesses have a multiplicity of needs and include not just retailers, but also service businesses, automotive repair businesses and the all-important and growing home-based business sector.

Finally, Smith wants to pitch you on joining the South Orange Chamber. “Join now and just pay $10 for admission instead of $20!” for that May 26 event at Papillon 25.

Find out more about the South Orange Chamber of Commerce at www.thesouthorangechamber.com.

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