From the Chamber: Creating vitality in the valley |

From the Chamber: Creating vitality in the valley

Kara Stoller
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Eighteen months ago, the Steamboat Springs Chamber staff and board of directors made a conscious decision to challenge business as usual. We took an in-depth look at all our service areas, programs and events and asked if what we were currently doing was supporting business growth and making Steamboat Springs a wonderful place to live, work and visit.

Kara Stoller

Not all of the conversations were easy, but we felt it was necessary to hear from as many people as possible. Through lively discussion, disagreements and thorough analysis, we created a vision for the next chapter of the Chamber — one that keeps the best parts of who we were, while making room to innovate and adapt to become a stronger advocate and support system for businesses and the community.

One historical area where we chose to shift our efforts is event production. For decades, the Chamber planned, produced and executed events such as the Steamboat Marathon, Fourth of July Parade, Hot Air Balloon Rodeo and Wild West Air Fest. The Chamber will retain ownership of the Steamboat Marathon and Fourth of July Parade, but we have hired a local event producer to take on the logistics.

The Hot Air Balloon Rodeo has been passed on to the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a longtime supporter and champion of the event. It was of vital importance to the Chamber to select partners who are committed to keeping the unique spirit of these events alive. The Chamber will move into the role of event facilitator, connecting people wishing to produce events or bring groups to Steamboat with the resources they need for success.

The Wild West Air Fest is one of the younger events the Chamber produced. Fourteen years ago, Labor Day in Steamboat was a fairly quiet time, and the business community asked the Chamber what could be done to increase visitation and sales. From this request, the Wild West Air Fest was born. The Air Fest delighted audiences with static warbird displays and aerobatic performances.

As the years went on, new events joined the Labor Day lineup, including the Bull Bash, Steamboat Stage Race, Yampa Valley Crane Festival and End of Summer Jam. With Labor Day weekend now seeing stronger visitation, the decision has been made to retire the Wild West Air Fest and refocus our efforts on programs and initiatives that will help businesses continue to thrive in quieter times of the year.   

Moving away from event production allowed us to create a new department to meet the evolving needs of businesses and community. The Community Development department was created with the goal of connecting our community through programs, educational opportunities and partnerships that help make Steamboat a great place to live and work.

The department coordinated current Chamber programing like Service Excellence, Young Professionals Network, Leadership Steamboat, Leadership Alumni events and the Navigator Awards. The work by no means stopped there. We created a new event, Thrive Together, Steamboat’s first women’s leadership summit, celebrating and empowering women in all walks of life.

The Community Development department was also created to be the eyes and ears of our organization taking a proactive role in responding to current issues and be at the forefront of developing solutions that make our community stronger. One such initiative was responding to community concern about how events are planned, produced, permitted and executed in Steamboat.

In collaboration with the city of Steamboat Springs, we conducted over 60 individual stakeholder interviews with local event producers and held three community input sessions to learn about the community’s priorities when it comes to events. As a result of this yearlong effort, the city’s special event permitting process will be modernized and streamlined. It will also spread out events in both location and time of year.

This year is shaping up to be full of innovation for community development at the Chamber. We are kicking off 2019 with a Leadership Steamboat Alumni training, “How to Speak Like a Broadcaster and Lead Like a CEO.”

Additionally, we will be formalizing a Leadership Alumni Association to keep past classes connected and provide continuing education opportunities. Look for a new, modern Service Excellence program this spring that will enable more businesses to speak the same language on customer service.

We also want to continue to improve our communications and programing. If you are not hearing from us or there are ways we could better communicate with you, please let us know. If you have a great idea for a training or program, we want to hear from you.

The formation of the Community Development department is one example of how the Steamboat Springs Chamber is proactively working to support businesses and the community. We look forward to continuing to serve the businesses and citizens of Steamboat Springs and creating vitality in the valley.

Kara Stoller is a CEO of Steamboat Springs Chamber. 

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