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Fresh start for Vail’s chamber

Scott N. MillerVail, CO, Colorado

VAIL Its a new, bright, day for the Vail Chamber & Business Association.Over the last few months, interim director Susie Tjossem has been repeating her mantra of communication, cooperation, collaboration as the Vail business group works with the town government and Vail Resorts. And new director, sales and marketing specialist Michael Norton, is determined to continue that theme.The chamber in May said good-bye to its first and only director, Kaye Ferry, who had played a large role in creating the organization. Ferry resigned in May in the aftermath of comments she allegedly made to a Front Range Web site about Front Range skiers.Tjossem, a member of the chambers board of directors, was named interim director, and spent the next few weeks determining what shed gotten herself into.I didnt realize the history of controversial, hard-nosed attitudes there had been, Tjossem said. Maybe it had become too personal.Tjossem, director of the Colorado Ski Museum in Vail, had worked for Vail Associates and Vail Resorts for 25 years, and ran in 2007 for a spot on the Vail Town Council. She said those experiences gave her a unique perspective on how the towns government, its business community and the ski area operator should get along.Id gotten to know these people, she said. Theyre good people who are dedicated to Vail, and people I want to work with.The Three CsThats when the idea of the Three Cs came to Tjossem.Id always worked in teams, she said. You have to collaborate and compromise to get things done. An agreement to keep construction traffic from using the Vail Village parking structure was the result of cooperating and collaborating, Tjossem said.Were trying to remain positive now, board vice president and Colorado Footwear owner Steve Rosenthal said. There are so many negatives out there these days. We want to accentuate what we can. Vails continuing facelift is finished in many places, and it looks terrific, Rosenthal said. Foot traffic seems to have increased a lot over last year.Thats the sort of enthusiasm Norton wants to bring to his meetings with business owners when he starts easing into the directors job next week.Norton, who has more than 20 years of experience in sales and marketing including a stint running Zig Ziglar Inc., a motivational consulting and training company said he plans to meet with as many Vail business owners including several Vail veterans who, until now, hadnt joined the chamber as quickly as possible.My whole career has been built on a positive attitude, Norton said. You get back what you give. If Im excited, theyll get excited, too.Bill Suarez is new to the chambers board. The first meeting he attended was an interview with Norton. Suarez, the owner of Billys Island Grill in Lionshead, continues to be impressed with the new director.Its like getting a Super Bowl-winning coach for a minor-league team, Suarez said. We need that.Vail and its economic climate have changed over the years, Suarez said, and it was time for a change at the Vail chamber.(Ferry has) done my business a world of good over the years, Suarez said. But you can get a lot more done with sugar than vinegar.A less political chamber?Rosenthal said he and other board members want to see the Vail chamber less involved in town politics than it had been.Were getting out of issues unless they affect the business community, he said. If theres a problem with the sign code or something, then well get involved, but were going to stay away from issues unless the membership wants us to get involved. And, Norton said, the Vail chamber needs to work more closely with the Vail Valley Partnership. The two organizations have often had a chilly relationship over the years, something Norton said has to change.Theres a new term these days called coopetition, Norton said. Two companies might be in competition, but when they need to work together, they do. Tjossem said valleywide Vail Valley Partnership is working on local issues including housing and visas for foreign workers. The Vail chamber, meanwhile, is focused on problems unique to Vail. The two groups can take advantage of each others expertise, she said.And, Suarez said, the time has come to work together.The mountains have drawn independent people, Suarez. But theres a bigger need for communal help these days.With the economy and everything, there are serious challenges out there, he added. Thats when belonging to a chamber becomes ever more important.Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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