Michael Norton leaving Vail Chamber
VAIL, Colorado Michael Norton basically researched his way out of his job in Vail, Colorado.Norton, who was hired less than five months ago, has resigned his job as director of the Vail Chamber & Business Association. For the foreseeable future, the chambers business will be handled by the 10-member volunteer board of directors and the two employees in the office.Norton, who has more than 20 years of experience in sales and marketing including a stint running Zig Ziglar Inc., has his own consulting business. He will continue running that and will do some volunteer consulting for the Vail chamber.Michael was very part-time, chamber board member Susie Tjossem said. In addition to meeting and greeting business owners in town Norton spent a lot of time researching the chambers future and finances. He and the board talked about several reorganization plans. Michaels the one to came to us and told us You cant afford to have me working for you, Tjossem said. So the board members decided to run the chamber themselves.There are a lot of nonprofit groups that dont have directors, said Tjossem, herself the director of the Colorado Ski Museum in Vail. The decision to be a more hands-on board came from a more fundamental decision to continue as a Vail-only business association.Wed been in negotiations about how to run the chamber, and we got a good grasp of what the community wanted, chamber board president Lourdes Ferzacca said. We had a plan, and funding, and the consensus was that we didnt want the Vail chamber to dissolve.Over the course of charting the chambers future, Ferzacca said the board had discussions about a merger with the Vail Valley Partnership, a valley-wide business group.In the end we decided it just wouldnt work, Ferzacca said. But we needed to do our research and due diligence into the possibility.While Ferzacca and Tjossem said the chamber is dedicated to doing what its done for years a big part of which is providing members with information about town and Vail Resorts activities thats going to be done with an organization that relies more on volunteer work from board members.Weve all agreed to put extra days not hours, but days into chamber work, Ferzacca said.The leaner organization is needed because membership has taken a hit in the last year, due mostly to Vail Resorts discount Epic Pass.While the Epic Pass has been put a lot of people on the ski hill so far this year, its had a big effect on local chambers, which for years boosted membership because they were the only place to get the resort companys Merchant Pass.When the Epic Pass was announced we expected to lose 30 percent of our membership, Tjossem said. Weve seen that, although we have a lot of new members because of our new direction.Tjossem described that new direction as communication, cooperation and collaboration while she was the chambers interim director last spring. Tjossem took the job after Kaye Ferry, the chambers original director, resigned after allegedly making disparaging comments about Front Range skiers to a Denver-based Web site.The chambers new, friendlier direction has paid off in new memberships, Ferzacca said.In an e-mail, Norton said hes confident the chamber can continue in that direction.We accomplished so much towards reestablishing the VCBA as a value added entity in town, he wrote. The positive response from the merchants, the Town of Vail, and Vail Resorts were overwhelming.In these uncertain times I applaud the VCBA for being proactive and making the difficult budgetary decisions necessary to continue meeting and exceeding membership expectations.Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or firstname.lastname@example.org.