Vail Daily Editor Don Rogers: Chamber shows some signs of life
Vail, CO, Colorado
Call ’em Phoenix. The Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce is dusting off ashes and rising again.
New board, renewed resolve, a return to making a difference for the greater community the organization has served since America fought in a true world war.
It was a good feeling seeing people having “ah hah” moments at marketing guru Tony Rubleski’s seminar Wednesday at the Fairgrounds. And a relief.
A successful mixer here, putting on a well-attended seminar there. Pretty soon this group will be back on its feet, bills all paid, members seeing value, other business organizations viewing this chamber as a great partner in helping our business community thrive.
Yeah, I have high hopes for this vintage group, along with the other chambers in our valley. Survival — if merited — is a good start.
Downvalley has three chamber-like business groups: this chamber, the Gypsum Chamber and One Eagle in Eagle. The new two sprung up out of a sense that each town needed a group devoted specifically to them. Is there still a place for the more regional chamber, too? I think so, but that’s to be determined over the next year or so.
Chambers throughout the valley and America got clipped by the Great Recession, and are struggling with being relevant as well as financially healthy. So our chambers are hardly alone.
That the valley’s chambers perhaps became addicted to Vail Resorts merchant passes to attract members over the years until the rise of the Epic Pass effectively shut off the spigot. The company deserves praise for its role in helping the chambers throughout the valley. And a thanks.
I’ve opined before that local governments have an interest in helping their chambers flourish through dedicated funding sources — with say, a portion of business license fees or something similar. Healthy, whole chamber organizations have a direct tie to healthy, whole business communities, I believe.
But alas I am not the wizard with the wand to make that bit of wisdom happen, and plenty of people who are a lot wiser than me disagree with this point of view.
And anyway, the path is properly entrepreneurial. The answer lies in relevance for those who would be members. Fair enough.
The times have been tough on our chambers, and maybe a little tougher on the Eagle Valley Chamber. The timing with the recession and let’s call it chamber politics added to the difficulty. These things happen everywhere, so to be clear I have no fingers to point at individuals. All I know is that the chamber reached a point it could no longer afford paid staff, and that other business groups formed at least in part from the sense that a downvalley region chamber could not serve all their needs specific to their community.
And I know that the chamber board eventually had whittled down to three volunteers in the dead of winter. Others had more than served their time and it was time to move on.
The chamber needed a fresh infusion of volunteers or to disband. Call us nuts –and that would be perfectly accurate –but a few of us raised our hands, saying we weren’t ready to see a 70-year-old organization die just yet.
So we’re almost three months into sifting through the ashes and seeing what we can do to help make the organization solvent again and then relevant.
You get the value in a chamber that you put into it, that’s true. And I think that the downvalley as a region, partnering where it makes sense with the upvalley organizations, has a need the ol’ Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce can serve well.
But ultimately that’s a test of time. Meanwhile, I’m glad to see a few bright feathers growing again.