By Lucas Vader
As 2020 came to an end, so did the Cedaredge Area Chamber of Commerce (CACC). This was due to financial strife throughout the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly in the cancellation of Applefest.
Without the regularly financially prosperous annual festival, CACC decided a couple months later that it would dissolve, with its last assurance being that Applefest will continue.
“More than simply COVID, the way our community and our country conducts business is changing,” CACC explained in a public newsletter explaining the decision to dissolve. “With the continued evolution of technology and social media, this has changed the way in which businesses network, market and obtain information. This alone has certainly made an impact on participation and membership over the last several years, and even more in this year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, our Board recognizes that the Cedaredge Area Chamber of Commerce was duplicating many of the efforts of the Town of Cedaredge Economic Development Department.”
As the statement said, Kami Collins, Town of Cedaredge clerk and economic development coordinator, who also sat on the CACC board of directors, has the ability and intention to support all the businesses in Cedaredge, as it then supports the town itself through sales and use tax.
“Conversations really came down to, when the town created this position and then the new chamber director, the two offices were really doing a lot of similar work,” Collins said. “There was a lot of crossover and not enough independent work from each department.”
The cancellation of Applefest was the ultimate cause of CACC dissolving, but both the chamber board and officials of the Town of Cedaredge looked at the change as not being necessarily a bad one.
The last president of the CACC board, Dottie Whitlock, claimed that the transition is “an extremely good thing.”
“Chambers are outdated,” Whitlock said. “People are moving in a different direction with social media.”
Collins explained that, with the way things have evolved in recent years, the town’s economic development department, which is mainly just Collins herself, won’t have to take on much of an extra load or evolve to meet certain needs. She admitted that she probably won’t be going around to do CACC’s traditional ribbon-cutting ceremonies for new businesses, but the town is aware of all in-town businesses and will promote them all, as it behooves the town’s economy for all businesses to succeed.
“We will continue to update our business community and our nonprofit community at large about business happenings and events going on in the Town of Cedaredge,” Collins said. She welcomes all business owners to reach out to her with events, promotions and similar requests for help for which CACC members came to rely upon.
As for Applefest, Whitlock stated that CACC first approached the Town of Cedaredge to take over planning and running the massive annual event. Already last month, the town board of trustees discussed this and has only shown agreement to take over Applefest at this point. Collins, who served as a bridge between CACC and the town, would hold a prominent leadership position regarding Applefest should the town continue to pursue it.
“We offered our services,” Whitlock said in regards to recent CACC board members who have planned Applefest over the last several years. “I’ve done Applefest for 10 years, a couple of the other members have been on five, six years, you know, so we’ve offered.”
The town board discussed this last month as well, indicating that it would find ex-CACC board members to be an ideal volunteer planning committee for the event.
The trustees’ discussion is further described in the DCI article “Trustees aim to save Applefest.”
“If you look around the country, a lot of these festivals that happen in towns like ours are actually run by the cities or towns themselves,” Whitlock said. “Very few of them are actually run by other entities.”
Collins has continuously indicated that she is confident the town could run Applefest in the future with the right volunteers and enough of them. After all, the festival, without fail, gives a colossal boost to the local economy.
As far as CACC business members are concerned, Whitlock said the transition is very simple. They have paid their final membership dues. They will continue to be covered by the Town of Cedaredge Economic Development Department, for which there are no dues.
“I think this is a good thing and I think Kami is going to do an absolutely amazing job for the town and the businesses,” Whitlock said.
Business owners and managers who wish to be a part of the town’s growing network can contact Collins at email@example.com.