Michelle Byrd, who runs Winners Bayonne, an off-track betting location off of Route 440, is the new president of the board of the Bayonne Chamber of Commerce. Byrd was elected unanimously and unopposed by the thirteen other board members, and Mayor James Davis swore her in on Jan. 5.
The board is comprised of local business owners with the intention to facilitate and encourage local businesses.
“In order to be appointed to the board, you have to be a business owner or run a business in Bayonne,” Byrd said. “When there’s a seat available, the board usually votes on somebody who is active within the chamber.”
According to Byrd, she has been an active member of the Chamber of Commerce for a number of years. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation (BEOF).
“Prior to being on the board, I was coming to the events and things going on within the Chamber,” Byrd said. “I’ve been on the board since 2015. There were great leaders before me and I learned a lot from them. That just helped me to move forward and to run for the seat.”
Byrd was born and raised in Brooklyn. Her mother was a union president and her father was a private detective. She was educated in New York City Public Schools, and after graduating High school, Byrd attended Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina where she received a BS in Fashion Merchandising.
She began her career in the horse racing industry in 1982 in NYC with Off Track Betting as a teller, and by 1992 had risen through the ranks to branch manager at several locations in the city. After 28 years of business, the company shut its doors in December of 2010 and when Winners Bayonne opened in July 2012, Byrd was hired as a manager and soon after became Director of Operations.
Though she is not a Bayonne resident, Byrd considers the city her second home: “Even though I don’t live in Bayonne, I love this city. I really love this city and want it do well. And I want everybody in it to do well.”
Businesses bustling back to life
While the chamber has been less active since the onset of the pandemic, Byrd hopes to revitalize the organization’s efforts regarding local businesses.
“The chamber has been inactive for a couple years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Byrd said. “My biggest goals are to assist businesses post-COVID, because they have a lot of concerns; to provide training for business improvements; and to be an active voice representing the members and advocating for legal and social matters. Like our motto says, we are the voice of the business community.”
Other planned efforts include reaching out to businesses to help those struggling to find employees.
“We’re going to do a lot of networking with businesses to help with promotion and support, including job postings,” Byrd said. “There are a lot of businesses that are looking for employees, but nobody wants to work. So we’re going to offer job postings and try to assist businesses to get employees. Overall, we want to promote and strengthen our community by building prosperity through our healthy economy and small business sector.”
And efforts like Byrd’s are especially important as the city, the county and the country continue to grapple with wave after wave of COVID-19 despite the increase in virus vaccinations and boosters that continue to be administered.
Networking with local businesses
The first in-person event hosted the chamber will be in March.
“We’re having a breakfast in March,” Byrd said. “We’re looking to do a monthly breakfast of networking, which we will call the Bayonne Chamber Back to Business Breakfast. This is where members can come and network, talk to us about their concerns and voice their needs. It’ll be a great opportunity to meet the new board members and fellow business owners.”
The goal is to get to know the local businesses through events like the networking breakfasts, according to Byrd.
“We want to reach out to the businesses and that’s how we’re going to hit the ground running,” she said.
More is to come throughout the rest of 2022, Byrd said. Local businesses can keep an eye out.
For more information, go to bayonnechamber.org. The Bayonne Chamber of Commerce is located at 166 Broadway.
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