Vail Valley: Eagle Valley Chamber to host Oct. 15 membership meeting |

Vail Valley: Eagle Valley Chamber to host Oct. 15 membership meeting

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

It’s time for a new year at the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce, but the old year is ending better than it started.

About a year ago, the chamber still had nearly 500 members and a paid director. As the reverberations from last year’s collapse on Wall Street hit Eagle County, members declined to write checks for another year. Bills started to pile up, and soon, former director Tim Cochrane told the chamber’s board that the group couldn’t afford to pay a director any more. That’s when the chamber’s volunteer board took over

Now, with membership about half what it was a year ago, the chamber is working to reinvent itself.

The group had some successes with its annual spring golf tournament, working the beer garden at Gypsum Daze and a recent roller derby night in Eagle. A business forum last week brought about 40 people to listen to local expert talk about the state of the local economy.

“Now we’re ready to go and increase our membership,” chamber board member Joan Lorton said.

After going several months without any paid help, the chamber recently Constance Harvey as its membership director and is looking for a new executive director, sort of. Whoever wants the job, Lorton said, will essentially have to work for little or no pay until membership grows more.

“There’s got to be somebody out there willing to do it,” Lorton said.

So the board is still doing most of the work.

“It’s been a challenge to keep it going,” board president Steve Quiring said. “But the chamber’s going to be here. There are always going to be challenges to face.”

One of those challenges is convincing people that chamber membership has more benefits than just a merchant ski pass, something made largely irrelevant last year when Vail Resorts rolled out its Epic pass.

“There has to be value,” Lorton said, rattling off a list of benefits that includes advertising deals with local media companies, participation in the twice-weekly e-mails sent to members, the exposure of the chamber’s various events and member-to-member discounts.

In the end, though, Quiring said the downvalley business community has to pull together to succeed.

“And our real focus needs to be getting people to shop locally,” Quiring said.

Looking ahead, board member Jeff Boyer said the chamber needs to continue to refine its business plan.

“Maybe we’ll never see 500 members again,” Boyer said. “But we can grow our membership, and keep the members we have as happy as we can.”

And board member Randy Olin said he’s encouraged by the progress he’s seen in the last several months.

“I’m encouraged by the new people who have joined the board, and by how people are showing an interest in getting involved,” Olin said.

And, Olin said, the current slump may end up being a positive thing for the chamber.

“It’s really forced the chamber to focus, and to really promote what we do, which is to promote commerce in this part of the valley.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

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