Eagle Valley Chamber works to rebuild | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley Chamber works to rebuild

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

The Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce nearly disbanded early this year. Today, the group is working to pay its debts and regain its relevance.

At a Wednesday lunch meeting upstairs at the Big Valley Steakhouse, chamber board members talked about the work the group had done in the past year.

Board member Randy Olin told the group that the chamber was hit by a double-whammy of the national economic slump and the advent of Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass. That value-priced pass made the company’s old merchant pass program nearly irrelevant, Olin said.

Olin said the chamber didn’t respond quickly enough to the changing times, which left it in a financial bind. Losing money on the last two Citizen of the Year Extravaganza events put the chamber in an even deeper hole.

Worse yet, Olin said the chamber’s fading fortunes left it in the position of owing money to local businesses.

“That’s just unconscionable as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

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Today, the chamber’s debts to local businesses are “virtually gone,” Olin said, leaving just interest payments on a line of credit to Wells Fargo Bank.

Beyond paying old bills, though, the chamber is also working to make itself relevant to members now. To help that cause, the group has hired Abrams Advertising – a Montrose-based company with an office in Eagle – to create a new website for the chamber.

That site will go live Aug. 1, and company owner Josh Freed promised people at the meeting that the new site will provide more flexibility for businesses, allow better use and access to social networking sites and will be a big boost for participating businesses in “search engine optimization.” Freed said that search engines automatically assign preference points to chambers of commerce, which puts them higher up on a Google search for, say, Eagle restaurants. The new site will also have an application for “smart” phones such as the iPhone.

The website will also include a feature for business owners and visitors to blog about their experience. Freed said that given the new site’s various functions, it would soon become a primary source of local information. The site will be available to members.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.