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New Imlay director leads new direction


Cynthia Pankala takes on challenge as director of Imlay Chamber of Commerce



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Cynthia Pankala
January 30, 2008
IMLAY CITY — The Imlay City Area Chamber of Commerce has its eye on the future—beginning with the selection of a new director.

After reviewing the resumes of 15 applicants, the Chamber Board of Directors agreed last Wednesday to hire businesswoman Cynthia Pankala to fill in the post that was vacated by longtime director Sally Reinhardt last year.

Chamber president Ken Swanstrom was enthusiastic after Pankala announced Thursday she was accepting the part-time position.

"After conducting in-depth interviews with the highest-potential candidates, we feel that Cynthia has a very strong drive and commitment towards serving our chamber, its newly-defined mission and fresh goals," Swanstrom said. "Her expertise will assist her in relating to the variety of businesses that we have in our community."

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By Monday morning, Pankala was on the job in the chamber office, learning the ropes from interim director Yvonne Wilson, who stepped in after Reinhardt resigned.

A resident of Attica Township and the former owner of Cynthia's Cornucopia in Dryden, Pankala has an extensive background in media, communications and public relations, having worked in those fields in the Los Angeles area for more than 10 years.

Her resume notes that she also has experience as a design consultant, a family caregiver and finance manager.

A devotee to all things local, Pankala occasionally documents her family's campaign to adopt a locally-exclusive lifestyle in her 'Living La Vida Local' column in the Tri-City Times.

A graduate of Boston University, Pankala believes opening the lines of communication can help unite the city's business community.

In an introductory letter to Swanstrom, Pankala said she wants to "immerse myself in the business community, to ask questions and listen to the concerns of business owners and community leaders."

"I hope to have heart-to-heart dialogue with our business owners," she said Monday. "I think it's very important to find out what they are thinking. Then we can process that information to determine what we can do to help them. These times require creative thinking."

Pankala had little time to acclimate to her new surroundings before getting down to business.

On Monday night, the chamber held a special meeting to discuss the future of the traditional Blueberry Festival, held annually in the first weekend in August.

In recent years, the weekend festival has been reduced from three days to two days, to cut costs and increase efficiency. Entertainment costs have also been kept to a minimum.

Some chamber members have expressed concern that organization of the festival is typically reliant on a handful of volunteers.

To lessen the burden on the regular volunteers and to encourage greater participation for the 2008 Blueberry Festival and beyond, the chamber is asking local non-profit organizations, groups and individuals to help organize the event.

"This year, we are revising our sponsorship of the Blueberry Festival, so it may truly represent a more community-based event," said Swanstrom. "It is necessary that we join forces with other willing organizations and individuals to spearhead the planning, management and staffing of the many events held during the festival."

The resignation of former full-time director Reinhardt last summer afforded the chamber board an opportunity to reassess the director's position.

As a result, Pankala has been hired to work part-time, on a half-day basis. The job offers no benefit package.

"This arrangement and time commitment works out very well for me," said Pankala, who continues to work as a mentor and business consultant. "I'll be able to continue doing other things."

For more information about the Imlay City Area Chamber of Commerce, or to speak with Cynthia Pankala, call 810-724-1361.

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