From THE WATCH
TELLURIDE – With the launching of the Telluride Region Chamber of Commerce earlier this year, businesses in Telluride, Mountain Village and downvalley now have an organization to turn to for representation, support and collaborative opportunities.
Still in its infancy, with its early 2013 startup, Chief Executive Officer and President Jim Riley said the membership-driven nonprofit organization that held its inaugural board meeting on April 1 is currently in a “discovery phase.”
“We are trying to make the chamber appeal to the unique business community that is Telluride,” Riley said. “We want to provide products and services to this community. When I say we are in a ‘discovery phase,’” he added, it means that “we are reaching out to business-owners to get feedback on what is going to help this business community succeed.”
The key question Riley said the chamber will ask its members is this: “What role can we play for them?”
The idea for launching the new chamber came in the last few months of 2012, said Riley, executive director of the Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association until November 2011. To set that idea into motion, he teamed up with his wife, Nichole Zangara Riley, community relations manager for the Town of Mountain Village, and former Llama owner Fletcher McCusker, to give business representatives a sorely needed voice in the decision-making processes that are ongoing in Telluride region’s unique seasonal economy.
On Jan. 1, the three of them decided to make a go of it, and they spent the rest of the month researched the roles often played by chambers in their communities. In February they attended a meeting of the Western Association of Chamber Executives, and soon thereafter opened up an office at 217B Colorado Avenue, on Telluride’s main street.
Like most chambers throughout the country, Riley said the Telluride Region Chamber of Commerce will operate as an umbrella organization, representing its membership and providing a host of beneficial products and services.
“We want to be able to provide services, marketing support, a member directory for businesses – and we also want to be able to provide networking opportunities,” Riley said. “There is a lot we are trying to do. So right now, we reaching out to businesses to help us decide what is going to help – and then focus on a group of things that will be worthwhile first.”
McCusker, who ran The Llama from 2004 to 2012,knows firsthand the challenges businesses face in the Telluride region – and firmly believes that collaboration within the business community can lead to a more productive business environment.
“When I ran the restaurant, it was a lonely business. I felt like I was on an island,” McCusker said. “There didn’t seem to be a lot of coordination. We never co-marketed together. Everybody is so busy here, there is little time to socialize.”
A chamber can address that problem, he said, creating events that will bring common interests together. “We think there is a lot of common ground in the Telluride regional businesses,” McCusker emphasized.
One service the chamber will offer is a business-center facility at its main street offices, where member businesses can hold meetings, make presentations and a have centrally located workplace, when needed.
After the April 1 board meeting, McCusker said, the next meeting will take place after offseason, in mid-June. The chamber’s board will then collect data from businesses over the course of the summer and, by September, will have a clearer picture of the products and services it will provide to business members.
So far, in addition to McCusker, Riley and Zangara Riley, the founding board consists of Sotheby’s International Realty Broker/Telluride Blues & Brews Festival Production Director Teddy Errico, Cosmopolitan Owner Chad Scothorn, ASAP Principal Todd Brown, Jagged Edge Owner Erik Dalton, Wells Fargo Mountain Village Branch President Chris Cox, Studio G Owner Ginger Medrick, and former Executive Director of the Denver Chamber of Commerce Joe Snell.
Riley said the chamber plans to send out a survey to businesses in the community this summer, as well. For more information on membership or to provide input, visit their Telluride office, or call 970/728-8920.