Downvalley businesses debate chamber’s role |

Downvalley businesses debate chamber’s role

Kathy Heicher
Eagle, CO Colorado

EAGLE, Colorado ” With a struggling chamber of commerce and a weak economy, the downvalley business community is working to define itself.

Business leaders attending a meeting Thursday discussed creating separate chamber-like organizations in Eagle and Gypsum and maintaining the present downvalley chamber. Others suggested linking the downvalley chamber organization with Vail Valley Partnership, an upvalley chamber group.

“We haven’t ruled anything out at all,” said Steve Quiring, president of the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce.

That organization, like chambers of commerce nationwide, has been stung by a big drop in membership and revenues. Quiring said the chamber membership fell from 500 members in 2007-2008 to 200 business members in 2008-2009.; and revenues have dropped by more than 50 percent.

The financial problems resulted in the recent resignation of the chamber’s executive director, Tim Cochrane, who said the organization could no longer pay him a sufficient salary.

A couple of businessmen said Thursday they have been frustrated with the chamber’s operation.

“The chamber hasn’t done a good job of bringing community and businesses together,” said downtown property owner August Wittenberg. “It’s not doing anything for businesses downtown.”

Some Eagle businessmen have created their own organization, “One Eagle,” to promote the business districts in town. A group of Gypsum businessmen are exploring a similar concept. But that sort of splinter business group is a concern for downtown businessman Joe Frasco, who advocated maintaining the Eagle Valley Chamber.

“I don’t want to see a very small community break apart,” said Frasco.

He also questioned how local businesses could afford to support several different business organizations.

“If we break up into little groups, we won’t even have enough money to support a barbecue,” said Frasco, who advocated a big event downvalley. He also proposed creating a summer flea market on lots he owns on Wall Street.

Quiring noted that the downvalley chamber has always worked with limited resources, but acknowledged that some changes should have been made. Still, he said there is some merit to maintaining the current organization.

John Shipp, owner of the Dusty Boot restaurants in Beaver Creek and Eagle, suggested that the downvalley chamber hook up with the Vail Valley Partnership.

“Why not join forces? For both of us to go out and try to do the same thing doesn’t make sense,” he said, noting that the upvalley group is already staging mixers downvalley.

Local Realtor Bar Hogoboom agreed.

“We are one valley. Why not support each other?” she asked.

Frasco said he was concerned that the up-alley organization would not recognize the lower valley organization as an “equal.”

Eagle businessman Tim O’Brien said the economy has created the current dilemma.

“To scrap the chamber would be foolish,” he said, suggesting that joining forces with the up-alley group is worth exploring. “The valley is one big town now ” it just happens to be 30 miles long.”

Support Local Journalism