BKBIA executive director’s first year brings changes

susan cooperJoseph Serna, Staff Writer

It’s not easy finishing up classes for a college degree while jumping into a new job at the same time, but Susan Cooper managed last year.
Cooper, who this month will mark her first full year as the executive director for the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association (BKBIA), remembers the first year with a laborious tone.
“I got a crash course in public events in Long Beach,” she said of last year’s Bixby Knolls Street Fair. Cooper was hired by the BKBIA’s board of directors only months before the street fair was planned to open, and for the first two and a half months of her job, she was part-time because she was finishing up her Asian American studies degree at Cal State Long Beach.
Cooper graduated with a bachelor’s last spring.
During the beginning, her responsibilities were pretty focused, she said. As a hired employee of the BKBIA, Cooper depends on Jane Fallon, director of member relations, and volunteers from the board of directors and local business owners to help her bring events to fruition.
“She’s probably more energetic than [anyone] I’ve seen in a long time,” said board member Brent Dunn. “She’s been really instrumental in getting involvement from the board members.”
Cooper attributed her hiring to her experience in El Segundo working with the chamber of commerce and city government as a treasurer.
“Initially I looked at the [BK]BIA as a mini-chamber of commerce,” she said. In that fashion, the executive director provides his or her expertise to the board of directors for suggestions. In the BKBIA, Cooper was given a pretty specific set of guidelines to follow.
According to Dunn, she is doing a great job.
“We needed to do something more to truly revitalize the [Bixby Knolls] area,” Cooper remembered. Stores were closing and volunteers were slowly evaporating.
One of Cooper’s first moves was having more mixers, from quarterly to monthly. The mixers give business owners in Bixby Knolls, automatic BKBIA members, an opportunity to congregate and learn how to get involved in the community.
With the addition of the first Health and Wellness Expo, Saturday, May 19, Cooper has seen some new faces among the volunteers, and with them comes a renewed sense of excitement.
And with that, a shift in the association’s paradigm is taking shape.
“We’re moving away slightly from that grassroots organization,” that formed the BKBIA originally, Cooper said.
The BKBIA has removed “to improve the quality of life” from its mission statement, and instead has shifted the focus primarily on enhancing the business environment and the one-on-one relationships between business owners, the BKBIA, and the city of Long Beach, Cooper said.
Though Dunn’s final term as a board member ends next year, he said he looks forward to continuing work with the BKBIA and specifically with Cooper.
“It would be hard to beat her,” he said.