Out of My Mind 13

Chamber needs your help

The Oroville Chamber of Commerce isstruggling to find its identity – it has had trouble finding people willing tohold positions as officers and just last week the president, a frustratedRaleigh Chinn, announced his resignation.

Now the business organization findsitself rudderless, without a president and vice president. There’s still a goodgroup of people on the board, but the top spots go unfilled. The organizationjust doesn’t seem to know its purpose and just as many people on the board seemto want to disband as those that want to soldier on.

Last week one of my fellow ChamberBoard members asked, “What does the Chamber do?” For a number of years theycould point to running the Visitor Information Center, but that was recentlypassed over to the Borderlands Historical Society, which operates the VIC fromthe Old Depot Museum. The Chamber also lends a hand with community events andhas offered to act as a means of bringing several fraternal and civicorganizations together to share the load on projects.

When you only have a handful of peoplewho regularly show up for meetings, its hard to get much done. And we’vewatched as many members drop out because they’re burned out and/or feel underappreciated.

Our one big accomplishment seems to bethe May Festival Barbecue, not as a fundraiser for the group, but as a way toearn money to pay for the May Festival insurance and insurance for many of theevents that take place over the year. It doesn’t sound like much, but withoutinsurance, May Festival couldn’t take place and our royalty and float couldn’trepresent Oroville at events around the region. May Festival does bring many,many people to town who patronize the local stores and eateries.

We also give an annual scholarship,make and distribute information packages to businesses and others consideringlocating in Oroville, host political forums and have guest speakers. But maybethat’s not enough, we hear the complaints, but rarely hear constructive advice.

The group appreciates the dues that themember businesses pay, but when asked in surveys, it’s hard to get themembership to let the officers and board know what they’d like to see theChamber do for them. Perhaps one problem has been the many changes in meetingtimes the group has had over the last few years. The organization met everyThursday at one of the local restaurants for years – reducing the number ofmeetings to two or one a month during the summers. Now there is only onemeeting a month all year round and it is still hard to fill the tables. Keepingin mind that many businesses are one-man or one-women shows and it’s hard toget away, it still seems that one meeting a month is not too much to ask.

I’ve been participating in the Chamber for over 20 years nowand there have been other times when it looked like the end was near, butalways there’s been a reprieve. The organization needs new blood and new ideas.The same five or six people will not be able to carry on. So I am appealing tothe membership and those who own or run business, but don’t belong – it’s timeto let us know what you want from your Chamber of Commerce. Do you find theorganization valuable and if not, why not? What can the Chamber do for you andwhat can you do for the Chamber? It’s your business organization, perhaps itstime you contribute with your ideas, as well as your dues.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are the Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He is single with a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.

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