Vail Daily column: Why your local chambers matter |

Vail Daily column: Why your local chambers matter

Chris Romer
Vail Valley Partnership

It used to be that almost every business would join a chamber of commerce simply out of a sense of connection or a simple sense of “that’s what is expected.” Chambers used to provide one of the few ways for businesses to connect in their community.

Those days are (rightfully) gone as budgets are tight, a return on investment is expected for every dollar that is spent and before the Web put most any business a few simple clicks away.

Here in the Vail Valley, many chamber and merchant groups depended heavily on the Merchant Ski Pass for our membership base. Collectively, we freaked out as the Epic Pass changed the game and eliminated the need for businesses to join a chamber just to ensure their employees had access to a discounted ski pass.

Looking back, we didn’t have a sufficient value-proposition outside the merchant pass product. Similar to the current discourse around golf clubhouses and new on-mountain experiences, many groups focused their time and energy on being upset and reactionary instead of recognizing that the Epic Pass was a “game changer” and was (and still is) a huge benefit to our community.

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Benefits of joining the chamber

As we look ahead to 2014, the benefits to joining a chamber (or two, or more) are extensive. The benefits available are much deeper than the old “it’s what is expected” or the old “we need a ski pass and have to join.”

The connections made with local businesses and organizations provide more opportunities for engaged businesses to grow their market share; the marketing benefits, networking opportunities, educational programs and industry connections available through local chamber groups is impossible to duplicate on the Internet.

Chamber and merchant groups in the Vail Valley — including the Gypsum Chamber, Eagle Chamber, Minturn-Red Cliff Business Association, Vail Chamber and Business Association, Lionshead Merchant Association, Eagle-Vail Business Association, Beaver Creek Merchant Association and Vail Valley Partnership — are committed to collaboration and cooperation.

Collaboration and cooperation benefits the business community, as these groups remain focused on adding value to our members rather than competing with duplicative services. Collectively, we provide our members with the ability to tap into a larger network, collaborate with industry peers and connect to your next customer (or to someone who will refer your next customer).

William Ury, from Harvard Law School, highlights the increased need for collaboration in business when he stated, “knowledge is improved through the act of sharing. Increasingly in today’s marketplace, a business’s ability to compete depends on its ability to cooperate.” The local chambers and business associations serve to assist businesses with this essential need.

Vail Valley Partnership is committed to adding value to our members and to taking a leadership position to create collaborative programs that benefit our community.

The Partnership’s destination marketing efforts including group sales, event recruiting and leisure sales will result in a total economic impact of over $69 million in 2013, contributing over $4.1 million in state and local tax revenues. Our focus on tourism efforts as a part of our economic development strategy is essential to the business community, as visitor spending in Eagle County equals $869 million annually, contributing $44 million in state and local tax revenues. (Source: Dean Runyon, “Economic Impact of Travel on Colorado.”) Direct visitor spending benefits hotels, retailers, restaurants, attractions, transportation services and other small businesses. In addition, tourism directly supports jobs for more than 6,200 people in the Vail Valley region.

The Partnership’s chamber efforts, which focus on business services, networking events, educational programming and industry programming at a regional level, are driven to add value to the business community. Collaborative programs, extensive marketing benefits and dozens of business events are coordinated and led by the Partnership throughout the valley, providing opportunities for members to expand their awareness to both the local and destination audience.

An increased focus remains on economic development as a result of the merger of the Economic Council of Eagle County last year. The Economic Council’s mission is to promote the long-term economic health of Eagle County and our work in 2013 resulted in a comprehensive economic development strategic plan for Eagle County, which will be implemented in 2014. These efforts will focus on retention and expansion of current businesses and recruiting new businesses.

We also hope you’ll consider membership in your local business groups, as we’re all in it together.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.

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