The Paonia Chamber of Commerce has served the community by producing the Cherry Days Festival and by marketing and connecting local businesses. Its mission is to support local business, economic development and to protect our unique quality of life.
Cherry Days is the oldest continual festival in Colorado and the chamber was given the task to make sure that the festival continued when the ability of individuals in the community to organize the activities declined.
With the near dissolution of the chamber in 2006 and a totally new board of directors, the organization spent the last few years evaluating the time commitment, whether Cherry Days fit into the mission of the organization, and whether it could pull in the right volunteers to make Cherry Days reflect its important historic roots and traditions.
After engaging the public over the summer in 2012, the chamber found that individuals who represented a wide range of organizations and communities in Paonia were ready to take up the reins. Board members from the chamber volunteered to help the transition and the new group called the "Cherry Days 4 Ever" committee formed and is planning a Cherry Days celebration that continues to represent important traditions and Paonia's diversity.
The transfer of Cherry Days has some significant impacts for the chamber and the community. It has released the chamber board from the six-month workload to produce Cherry Days, and has allowed board members to place all their efforts into fulfilling the chamber's mission. It has also significantly reduced the chamber's income to about 40 percent of normal. Given this serious income reduction, with a current cash reserve of 50 percent of the historic annual budget, and with a dedication to conservative fiscal responsibility, the board members are voting on a bare bones budget for 2013 that may still leave the chamber in the red.
A primary focus for the chamber will now be how to make up the lost income and increase chamber services to fulfill the organization's mission at the same time. To that effect, board members have doubled their monthly meetings and are working hard to finalize a strategic plan and a branding strategy. The website is receiving a completely fresh new face, and board members are actively engaging with the local business community on how to best support them and the area's economic development. A new office is opening on Grand Avenue in the beginning of May, for which the chamber is actively soliciting volunteers.
Doubling the networking events, Business After Hours will take place every third Thursday of the month, and new quarterly membership meetings will keep members informed and engaged. In addition, the chamber is working with Grand Avenue businesses to create a more festive Downtown Days on July 3, and will be hosting the Bike Tour of Colorado (BTC) on June 25 that may bring over 1,000 people and contribute over $100,000 in economic activity to Paonia.
Given the significant income reduction for 2012 and a need for new income-producing activities, the chamber must regretfully cease its annual $2,000 donation to the Cherry Days King and Queen scholarship fund that it shares with the Paonia Rotary. The chamber encourages everyone who has participated in Cherry Days, or who has gone to Paonia High School, to consider making a donation this year to the Cherry Days committee for the King and Queen scholarship.