Nykamp Likes To Get Involved

May 29, 2002
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ZEELAND — Never one to just sit back and ignore a problem, Phil Nykamp decided that the Zeeland Chamber of Commerce was the best forum to get involved.

Through that venue, he helped to organize chamber events that networked business professionals in social settings, as well as educational seminars for member businesses. Two years ago he got involved further, accepting a seat on the chamber’s board of directors at the urging of business associates.

As of July 1, Nykamp’s involvement will grow even further, as he begins a 1-year term as president of the Zeeland Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Nykamp, a senior commercial real estate account executive with the Lighthouse Insurance Group, said that taking on a lead role in helping to set the agenda and direction of the Zeeland chamber and addressing issues facing the community is one that suits him well.

“I tend to throw myself into these things,” Nykamp said. “It’s easy to complain about what’s happening, but how about if you get in there, get your hands dirty and try to change things.”

A graduate of Holland Christian High School, the 35-year-old Nykamp was unsure of exactly what he wanted to do when an opportunity literally walked in the door one day.

While he took sales and marketing classes at Davenport College, now Davenport University, Nykamp worked as a car salesman at Elhart Pontiac. One day an insurance agent who worked for the Wolbrink Agency in Holland came in to buy a new car. They began talking and the customer asked if he was interested in getting into the insurance business.

“He asked, ‘Is this what you want to do the rest of your life?’ I said, ‘No,’” Nykamp said.

He talked it over with his parents, who encouraged him to consider it. He then went to talk to Bob Wolbrink, then-owner of the agency, and landed a job.

He worked for the agency for five years before leaving in 1994. Six months later, while he was working as finance and insurance manager at Crown Motors, Nykamp heard from an agent at the Keuning Insurance Agency in Holland. Keuning needed insurance agents and had heard Nykamp was available.

Nykamp and the Keuning agency came together and he’s been there ever since, joining Lighthouse Insurance Group when it acquired Keuning in 1995. He has since become a shareholder in Lighthouse, as well as the location manager of the agency’s Grand Rapids office.

While he never set out to become an insurance agent, Nykamp found the profession to his liking, he said. He enjoys meeting people and learning about their businesses, and the career fit well with his curiosity about how things work in the world.

As a commercial insurance agent, Nykamp has gained insights into the inner-workings of businesses, from running restaurants and flower shops to excavating companies and golf courses.

“My idea of fun in making a living is not sitting in front of a computer. I want to go out and talk to people and try to understand what makes the world go around,” Nykamp said. “This is it.”

That same trait is part of what drew the 35-year-old Nykamp to join and become actively involved in the Zeeland Chamber of Commerce. He also saw the chamber as a way to become involved in the community from a business perspective.

Community involvement is something that Nykamp said is important to him. “It is one of those things I felt I should do,” he said.

As head of the chamber board, Nykamp wants to keep the organization focused and involved on five issues: Encouraging more parental involvement in their children’s career choices, playing a role in revitalizing downtown Zeeland, enhancing benefits for chamber members, continuing the area’s industrial growth, and working with the Macatawa Coordinating Council, a local planning agency, on improving the area’s road and transportation system.

As with his career, Nykamp hopes his role in the chamber’s leadership will enable him to network even further with business leaders and learn more about how the world works.

“I love being a sponge. There is so much I don’t know,” he said.

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