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Chamber, visitor center are separate operations
Enumclaw Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tracey McCallum recently commented on the loss of funding from the city of Enumclaw. She stated that “the city’s fiscal woes have shaped the way the chamber goes about its business.” Just for clarification, the chamber and the visitor center are two separate entities. Why would the lack of visitor center funding affect the chamber? The chamber has received funding for years to run the visitor center for the city. However, in those prior years, the chamber had recruited wonderful volunteers to assist with the daily activities related to the visitor center. McCallum, as of yet, has not restaffed the visitor center with any significant number of volunteers. Visitor center volunteers are not supposed to be there to provide staffing for the chamber and the city has never intended for taxpayer money to be used to pay the staff of the chamber.
If, due to the lack of city funding for the visitor center, McCallum and the chamber board are now going to restrict chamber activities or charge the membership to put on events, then the membership should put a halt to it. McCallum indicated (“the immediate impact, is the chamber has started seeking sponsorships for the holiday parade”). There are two paid staff at the chamber to take care of the chamber activities. Members pay dues and should expect that, in addition to those dues, a “pay to play” situation does not become the new reality.
McCallum also stated that “the chamber cannot risk starting a new year in a financial hole.” If the chamber is in a financial hole it should not be because they aren’t getting money from the city. Again, city money was never meant to pay chamber expenses. Should the chamber receive city taxpayer funds in the future to run the visitor center, they should not be allowed to use one dime for the chamber. It should be put into a separate bank account to be used exclusively for visitor center expenses. And the city should have the right to audit that account, at any time. Again, it is taxpayer money.
Should the chamber decide not to run the visitor center because there is no city money then we should encourage them to find some volunteers to do so. Are we to believe that they won’t help a visitor just because they didn’t get funding? Of course, they will. Maybe a few businesses in town should step up to create a kiosk in their businesses to help visitors to our city. A visitor info sign would drive potential customer into their businesses. If asked, we all give directions to visitors, anyway. Any volunteer businesses on Griffin, 410 or Cole Street want to step up? If the chamber decides to continue with the visitor center it still might make sense for a couple businesses to consider putting in their own visitor info center just for the new customers it might drive in the door. The public relations results would be nothing but positive.
Visitors would come away with an all important “wow” factor.
“That city of Enumclaw is friendly and helpful. Let’s go back there and spend some time!”
Past president, board of directors
Enumclaw Area Chamber of Commerce