Can the Eagle Valley Chamber survive?
EAGLE – The valley’s original business group is more than 70 years old, but has had a tough couple of years.Struggling with old debt, and with membership and revenue falling, Wednesday’s Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors meeting had both sobering news and a glimmer of hope for the future.The sobering news is that participation and interest in the chamber is lower than it’s been in years. In fact, membership for the current fiscal year is about 20 percent of what it was in 2007, for a couple of reasons. The current economic slump has hit hard, of course. But chamber board member Randy Olin also told the 30 or so people at the meeting that Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass also had a big impact. That pass made virtually irrelevant the once-popular merchant pass. That pass was the only reason many businesses joined the chamber. The Eagle Valley chamber benefited in particular because its annual dues were lower than the other business groups in the valley.The drop in membership and revenue has been felt in the chamber’s leadership as well. The group’s bylaw require it to have at least 13 board members. There were only three board members as of Wednesday’s meeting, and a handful of new volunteers stepped up.The chamber has also been hit by the rise of new business groups in Eagle and Gypsum. One Eagle was the first, founded to find a way to market businesses only in Eagle. The Gypsum Chamber was next, founded because business owners in Gypsum wanted better representation than they believed the Eagle Valley Chamber provided.That leaves three business groups for two towns that together have a population of about 12,000. The feeling at the meeting was that three groups might be one too many.Annie Colby, who owns the Eagle Pharmacy, suggested that OneEagle and the Gypsum Chamber could become committees under the umbrella of the Eagle Valley chamber.The problem, though, is figuring out what role the Eagle Valley Chamber might have in that plan.”I’ve been mostly wrestling with that since I got involved (with the Eagle Valley Chamber),” board member Jeff Boyer said. “I don’t see room for all three groups.”Given the enthusiasm for the lower valley’s two new groups, the Eagle Valley Chamber seems to be the odd group out. But no one at Wednesday’s meeting was ready to give up on the oldest of the valley’s business groups.The Eagle Valley Chamber still runs the information center at Eagle, and still supports events including Eagle Flight Days and Gypsum Days. Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell called the information center an “incredible asset” for getting motorists taking a break from Interstate 70 to explore Eagle and Gypsum.”I’m not willing to cancel (the Eagle Valley Chamber),” Chuck Smallwood said. After volunteering to work with the chamber as it tries to revitalize itself, he added, “People need to realize there’s room for everybody.”Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.