From the Chamber: ‘What a year’
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
As I look back on the past year of the final month of my tenure as president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber, all I can say is: “What a year.” Over the past 12 months, our businesses and their patrons have endured shutdowns, reduced capacity, struggled with employment capacity, dealt with housing and child care challenges, all in a heretofore unimaginable global pandemic. But it hasn’t all been bad, and I am proud of the lengths to which the Chamber board and Chamber staff have gone to improve business experience over the past year.
One of the most impactful initiatives that came out of the 2020 pandemic was the creation of industry sector work groups. The Steamboat Springs Chamber staff, board of directors and industry leaders — in partnership with the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County — were able to come together to discuss best practices, pool resources and work toward policies that directly and positively impacted the business community. The industry sector work groups program was an initiative that allowed us to efficiently implement real and productive change, and I am glad to see these working groups continue even after restrictions were lifted.
I am also proud to see the Chamber help our local businesses in other ways: taking a leadership role in managing the distribution of CARES ACT grant funding to local businesses; setting up a local Five Star Program; sitting on the local emergency response team; advocating for small businesses at the national level; daily updates to the business community regarding public health orders, legislation and resources; and working with local government to advocate for business-related COVID-19 planning.
For all that was out of the ordinary, the Chamber team also worked incredibly hard to bring a sense of normalcy, holding our signature events and supporting our business community by holding a socially distanced Navigator Awards; a virtual Leadership Steamboat; a virtual Thrive Together; a virtual Economic Summit; a socially distanced marathon; and numerous educational and networking events.
To pull all of this off, our Chamber staff worked very hard, in the most challenging conditions, with much less. The paradox of the pandemic is that it somehow enabled and encouraged many of us to work harder, because we didn’t need to go into the office. We could do all of our work from home, blurring the lines between work and home life.
And our Chamber staff — under the expert leadership of our tireless CEO Kara Stoller — deserves a great deal of thanks. So thank you, Sarah Leonard, John Bristol, Laura Soard, Sara Konopka, Angelica Salinas, Cecilia Morter, Carol Halik, Gail Mirastow, Carol Schmadeke, Cindy Goulet and Colleen Whitman.
And as much as the Chamber staff deserves thanks for dealing with problems in the here and now, they deserve a great deal of recognition for their forward thinking as well. I would be pretending or tone-deaf if I did not address the issue related to destination marketing and tourism.
We are acutely aware of how popular our town has become and the limited resources we have. Our Chamber Board is proposing a redirecting of the organization away from an emphasis on bringing guests in (destination marketing) to educating our guests on how to be responsible visitors while they are here (destination management). We welcome your input and would encourage you to visit with one of our board members. We are working to find balance between supporting our businesses, the guests who visit and the locals who live here.
It has been an honor and a privilege to be at the helm of the Steamboat Springs Chamber for the past year, and perhaps my greatest accomplishment is that I did not break it. I am grateful for the opportunity to sit with and learn from some of the best minds in our community. And I am constantly humbled and inspired by the staff that runs the organization on a daily basis.
If you’re curious about the Chamber, please reach out: I would be happy to grab a cup of coffee with you and tell you how the Chamber can help your business and the community it serves.
Geoff Petis is the outgoing Steamboat Springs Chamber board president.
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