The Paonia Chamber of Commerce is located in a free office supplied by Chris Yates, a local businessman. Their office is on Grand Avenue in the second half of the former TDS Communications building.
The chamber has always faced challenges and is looking at more for the future.
One of the decisions recently made was to pay the lease for the Paradise Theatre until the end of 2013. Numerous plays, special movie screenings and other events are scheduled.
"We are taking on the lease for the Paradise Theatre because of the opportunity it affords us to support the businesses who use it. That's one thing the chamber has really been focusing on and trying to move towards now that we are no longer doing Cherry Days," Alexis Halbert, chamber president, said.
"We saw this as a very direct way we could help a number of businesses, nonprofits and organizations who could use the theater until the end of the year.
"We wouldn't have been able to take it on without the support of the Friends of the Paradise Theatre."
That group is comprised of 10 individuals. The chamber came in at the end of the Friends' trying to find a workable configuration for the theater. Those individuals put up over $3,500 out of their own pockets to ensure that the chamber will not take a loss in being part of this venture.
"We are also hoping and anticipating that we can make some money off the project that will help us close our budget deficit for the year," Halbert said. "We are hoping to make at least $3,000 by the end of the year."
The money will come from bar sales and donations. The money raised will first go to pay back the Friends of the Paradise Theatre. Then the chamber hopes to have $3,000 remaining. Any amount left after paying the Friends and the chamber will be designated to keep the theater open or distributed back to the community.
Halbert says the chamber has become more aligned with its mission. "That mission is supporting local businesses, quality of life, and this year the board added economic development. Transitioning out of Cherry Days has marked a big sign of health for the chamber."
She also views taking on the Paradise Theatre situation as a sign of the chamber's health.
One area that needs more attention is the strength of the chamber's board and administration. There are openings on the board. "I think those things will determine how the chamber goes forward and what the chamber will actually accomplish over the next couple of years," Halbert said.
The chamber currently has 85 members. They need to inspire more member and board participation. There are only six board members when their bylaws call for 11.
"We really need 11 people to cover all the work that needs to be done to do the basic chamber business," she said. "As we move forward to next year, there are some different scenarios we will be planning out depending on how much interest in the board and the chamber we can [gather] over the next several months."
On Sept. 19, the chamber will host a Business After Hours at the Paradise Theatre. They will talk about the role the theater plays in Paonia and also the role the chamber plays and can play in the future.
The scenarios for the chamber could include closing their office and using the membership funds to maintain the website and to do some basic advertising.
Another scenario is to continue having a Business After Hours every month. With the Hotchkiss Chamber of Commerce and the North Fork Creative Coalition, the Paonia chamber has applied for a $25,000 marketing grant through the Colorado State Tourism Office. "We see that marketing is a really important function of the chamber, and in fact recently many who have been coming to the wine events indicated that 40 to 50 percent found the event through the chamber. We know we are the number one portal for those who come to visit and do business in Paonia. We know there is high value in keeping the chamber.
"In order to grow even more, I anticipate finding ways to provide business services to people," Halbert said. Perhaps the chamber could draw a small industry to the area that would fit in with the values of the North Fork Valley.
The chamber needs energy and people's interest to survive and grow.
"Everyone is welcome. We're off to a good start. We are on a new path. We've had a lot of people say this year that they see what the chamber is doing. We're getting a lot of positive feedback," Halbert said. "Now we need that momentum back from our membership and the town."blog comments powered by Disqus