At the prompting of a dissatisfied member, the Boulder Area Chamber of Commerce has agreed to review its current strategy — including the question of how it can best serve local business owners.
At the BACC’s August 19 board meeting, Carey Burnside told directors: “As a business owner, I strongly feel a major change has to take place if this Chamber is to fulfil its purpose – because now, it’s not doing that.”
Burnside, the owner of Arctic Heat, has voiced her criticism of the Chamber before — most recently in a July 6 letter that was made public by the BACC. In it, Burnside essentially questioned whether the Chamber was equipped to advance the interests of its members.
At the meeting, Burnside reiterated her concern that the Chamber’s focus was on events that served the Boulder community, rather than on supporting businesses. “Special events are not the purpose of a chamber,” she said. “It’s to bring business owners together to network, so that they know who is out there in their community. A car show doesn’t bring businesses in. That doesn’t serve business.”
Burnside noted that other chambers in the region regularly bring members together for networking breakfasts, guest speakers on business topics, annual dinners, or other events. She proposed an informal monthly gathering for Boulder business owners.
As in past discussions, BACC directors noted that such events had been held in the past, but that volunteers needed to organize activities had waned. “This chamber is memberhip driven,” said Connie Grenz. “If people don’t come to the meetings, what can we do, as a seven-member board?”
Director Carellen Nix then asked that the question of the Chamber’s future strategy be put on the agenda for the board’s September 16 meeting. The board also agreed to discuss potential social events for members. President Bruce Binkowski noted that “monthly events may be too much for this little community. Quarterly, maybe. But I’d like to give it a shot.”
Following the meeting, Burnside indicated she was pleased with the result. “I was really happy that Carellen asked Bruce to include [the strategy question] in the agenda next month,” she said. “It was a great first step, and I was glad I wasn’t run out of the room, because that’s what I expected. But there needs to be more discussion about how to move forward.”
For his part, Binkowski said, “I’m glad Carey showed up. She offered good ideas, and the reaction of the group was positive.” He said that the board need to address the question of what services it will offer members next year, “given that they didn’t get much for their money this year. How do we confront that in this brave new world [of COVID-19]?”
Separately, the Chamber considered its lone remaining event on its 2020 calendar, the holiday bazaar scheduled for November 21. The BACC already has canceled its annual community yard sale, classic car show, and music and art festival in light of restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Binkowski said he had spoken to officials at Jefferson High School about using a gym — the only feasible location, he said, for the bazaar. He was told that the school doesn’t know yet whether the gym can be used for public events – and that it may not be able to confirm its availability, given the ongoing emergency, until much closer to the planned event date.
“Which puts us in an awkward spot, since we don’t even know if we’ll have a facility,” Binkowski told the board. “With everything else being canceled, maybe we just close out 2020 and say this is one more event that we do without. I’d hate to do it – but in the interest of public safety, what do we do?”
The board agreed to defer a decision on the event until its September meeting, pending new information from the high school.