Is the Eagle Valley Chamber worthwhile?
EAGLE, Colorado ” What started as Thursday afternoon conversations about sparking more business in Eagle, Colorado has turned, in part, into a debate about whether the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce still has value for potential members.
One Eagle, a new Eagle merchants’ group, was recently started from the foundation of a downtown merchants group, and Gypsum businesses are working to start a merchants’ group of their own.
Roberto Cammarota, owner of Pastatively restaurant in Eagle, has joined One Eagle. He believes the old chamber’s time has come and gone, and declared flatly that the group is “defunct.”
And the Eagle Valley Chamber has fallen on hard times financially. Membership has dropped by roughly half over just more than a year, and the chamber board recently accepted the resignation of former director Tim Cochrane because the group could no longer afford to pay him.
That means chamber board members are now running the group.
“I’m learning a lot about running a chamber, and doing it for free,” chamber board president Steve Quiring said. “We’re picking up the pieces.”
How those pieces look in the future is still being hashed out.
A proposed model would have the Eagle Valley Chamber serve as a kind of umbrella organization for smaller groups. At the moment, the Eagle Valley chamber is the only business organization in that part of the valley with the legal standing to accept money from local governments.
The group also continues to hold monthly mixers, is an outlet for Vail Resorts merchant ski passes, and offers various advertising deals to members.
“Just the ads will pay for your membership,” board member Jan Rosenthal Townsend said.
And, Quiring said, the chamber has launched a drive to get 100 former members to come back, and is offering a special six-month membership price as an incentive.
But a few people who spoke at the meeting said they had doubts about the chamber’s value to their business.
“You need to prove your value to us,” Everyday Outfitters co-owner Doug Seabury said.
Sara Keegan, co-owner of the Occasionally Keegan catering company, said she doesn’t have a lot of confidence in the chamber as it exists now. But, she added, she’d like to fix the chamber.
That’s the strategy Quiring and Rosenthal Townsend said they’d like to follow.
“I’m on board to say the chamber’s going to continue,” Quiring said. “I’d like us to do what we do now, only better. We’ve had problems with membership and communication, but those problems won’t get fixed tomorrow.”
Rosenthal Townsend, who’s been a chamber board member for nine years, said she’s put too much of herself into the organization to see it fail.
“We’re not defunct,” she said. “We have money issues right now ” everybody does. But we need financial and participatory support today to more forward.”
However the down valley’s business groups evolve, they’re going to need to find a new form fairly quickly.
Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell said when town and county governments are looking at donation requests this fall, those officials are going to want to see business plans and budgets from every group that asks for money.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or at email@example.com.
The Eagle Valley Chamber will probably have another Thursday business forum next week. The time will likely be adjusted to 5:30 p.m., and expect the meeting to be held in Gypsum, at a place to be determined.
The Vail Daily and http://www.vaildaily.com will publish the date, time and place as soon as the information is available