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Vail chamber picks new president

Special to the DailyMichael Robinson
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VAIL ” Bridge Street is getting some expertise straight from Rodeo Drive.

The Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau said Tuesday it has chosen Michael Robinson of the Beverly Hills (Calif.) Chamber of Commerce as its new president.

“Vail is a very special place,” Robinson said. “It’s a unique community that’s facing a real bonanza of potential in the future. … It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up when I heard it.”

The chamber has over 900 partner businesses from Vail to Gypsum. Robinson replaces former President Frank Johnson, who left the chamber in September.

The VVCTB is a countywide chamber, as opposed to the Vail Chamber and Business Association, which is a Vail-only chamber, and the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce, which has members from Eagle and Gypsum.

Robinson, who is director of communications for the Beverly Hills Chamber, said he will draw on his experience in the tourism-based economy of Beverly Hills when he comes to Eagle County. Both Vail and Beverly Hills have a lot of one-of-a-kind businesses dependent on tourism and travel, Robinson said.

“Beverly Hills has a brand known around the world,” Robinson said. “In Beverly Hills, we’ve enjoyed a lot of success as caretakers of that brand.”

Robinson compared the attraction of Rodeo Drive to the attraction of Vail Mountain. But he stressed the importance of supporting businesses that are away from those tourism attractions.

“The stores on Rodeo Drive are really the pinnacle of the destination,” he said. “That’s the reason they come to Beverly Hills. But unless there is support for businesses off Rodeo Drive, the businesses are not going to do nearly as well. That philosophy applies across the board.”

Challenges ahead

Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler helped do an organizational audit of the chamber several months ago. Zemler said Robinson will face several challenges.

Funding will be one challenge, he said. Staffing is another. The chamber lost a key staff member recently in former Vice President of Partnership Robin Litt and is expected to lose another high-ranking staff member soon.

Also, he’ll face the issue of having two chambers of commerce in Vail.

“It’s way past time there should be a merger,” Zemler said. “I hope he has the chance to provide some leadership there.”

Robert Aikens, whose business, Verbatim Booksellers, is a member of the chamber, said Robinson needs to “be a uniter, not a divider.”

“Between the two (chamber) organizations ” and I really think there should be just one ” sometimes they are at odds with each other,” he said. “I would hope that this guy would pull it together. I wish him all the luck in the world.”

Brian Nolan, chairman of the chamber board and owner of three restaurants in Beaver Creek, said Robinson impressed the chamber with his energy and enthusiasm.

“Michael was clearly out in the lead,” he said.

Robinson was one of five final candidates, whittled down from 100 applicants. He will start June 12.

Robinson has worked for the Beverly Hills Chamber for the last nine years. He supervised marketing for the organization, which has an annual budget of $3.5 million. The Vail chamber had a budget of about $2.2 million in 2005.

Before he worked at the Beverly Hills Chamber, Robinson owned his own boutique marketing agency in Beverly Hills and also worked as director of communications for Citi Equity Group Inc.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at (970) 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado


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