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Vail chamber, tourism bureau still talking

Cliff Thompson

A proposal to share administrative services among two rival business associations has been put on the back burner.

Representatives for the the Vail Chamber and Business Association and the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau say they plan to work together in the future.

In the past, the two organizations have had, more or less, a competitive relationship. That stance seems to be softening, however, as both parties appear to be holding a door partially open for the other.

“The opportunity to work together is still there; we need to rediscuss it,” says Frank Johnson, executive director of the tourism bureau.

The chamber’s Steve Rosenthal acknowledges his organization is contracting with the bureau to produce its annual publication, the Vail Guide.

“Nothing bad has happened,” Rosenthal says. “It was a business decision. We didn’t feel the total proposal was right at this time.”

Benefit the community

The chamber has been operating without a director since July, Rosenthal explains. Meanwhile, a pitch by the bureau to have the chamber share administrative functions has been rejected by the chamber’s board.

“Our idea was that we could perform some of the administrative functions for them so they would not have to replace (director) Rob Chiles – and they could use that money to benefit the business community,” says Johnson.

Rosenthal, however, says there’s another iron in the fire.

“(The chamber) is waiting to see what happens with the (proposed Business Improvement District). If the the BID goes through, you’re no longer going to have funding go to the VCBA. The BID will become the new board and the chamber will go to the BID board for funding.”

Sharing services

The overture for shared services comes as the two organizations that perform chamber functions try and cope with the difficult economic times the Vail community is facing. The bureau, with a paid staff, has approximately 825 members valleywide; the volunteer chamber, meanwhile, has several hundred members through Sept. 30, when it will, for the first time, begin charging dues.

Rosenthal says he’s expecting the organization to have as many as 200 dues-paying members.

The two organizations continue to discuss sharing the cost of a retail specialist to help spur flagging retail activity at the resort.

Budget-trimming

Sales-tax collections in Vail have been slowing or declining since 1993, leaving business owners and the town government trim their budgets.

The chamber has been depending on town funding for most of its operational revenue. Three years ago, that funding was granted with the proviso it would be reduced and eventually would go away. This year, with the chamber now ready to begin charging dues, it’s down to $225,000.

The Vail Town Council proposed axing the chamber’s funding this year, but an outpouring of support from the business community got it reinstated.

Three years ago, the Chamber and Tourism Bureau merged with the Avon-based Vail Valley Chamber. This year it has a $3 million budget, $370,000 of which is provided by the town to operate the town’s information booths and special events.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 970-949-0555 x450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com


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