It’s been a memorable fall in our community, and winter is definitely here. Before we get too far into our lift line conversations and inevitable shoveling duties, I wanted to take a few minutes to share some basic information on the Steamboat Springs Chamber.
Over the past few months, we’ve heard a lot of conversation on what the Chamber does and doesn’t do, so if you indulge me for a few minutes I’ll hit on some of the questions we hear the most.
What exactly does the Chamber do?
For over 100 years, the Steamboat Springs Chamber has provided support for local businesses in Steamboat Springs as well as surrounding communities in the Yampa Valley. The Chamber offers a variety of services to the community including networking, business advocacy, education and growth opportunities. We believe in supporting our local businesses, workforce and future leaders. When our member businesses thrive, our community thrives. The Chamber focuses primarily on two pillars: business development and destination management communications and marketing. Economic development was previously under the Chamber umbrella but has found a new home with the formation of the Routt County Economic Development Partnership. The Chamber still partners closely with the RCEDP, and our business development and destination management and marketing play a critical role in economic development.
What is Chamber business development?
The business development team works to increase and expand opportunities for growth, collaboration and success of both our member business and our community through partnerships, programs and education. To drive growth and development in our business community, the business development team organizes programs and events focused on professional development, networking and community initiatives.
Maybe you attended the Thrive Together Women’s Leadership Summit, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit or any of our business education series, including employment law updates and a six-part Creating a Culture of Retention series. Perhaps you or someone you know is an alumnus of Leadership Steamboat. These are all great examples of some of our work.
What about marketing?
The Chamber also has a contract with the city of Steamboat Springs to serve as the destination management and marketing organization of the region. Marketing often gets a bad rap, mostly because many people only think of the most visible side of marketing: advertising. And advertising our region has had tremendous benefits over the years. Our staff does much more though, including visitor research, maintaining VisitSteamboatSprings.com, staffing the Visitor Center, fielding public relations requests, promoting local businesses and so much more.
Why does the Chamber continue marketing even when it feels busy in town?
In a community where an estimated 2,600 jobs and $177 million in direct visitor spending during summer alone come from visitors to our area, it’s clear that tourism matters, and talking with current and future visitors is an ongoing effort.
Consistency is key. We strongly believe in balancing the quality of life of locals with the need for tourism. That is why we are focusing on destination management communications, something we have been doing for the last several years. We’re focusing educational and inspirational messaging on what it means to care for Steamboat Springs and how to visit in a responsible way.
Where does the Chamber get its funding?
The different focus areas of the Chamber are funded through different revenue streams: membership dues and programming fees fund the business development work, while contracts with the city of Steamboat Springs and grants from the Colorado Tourism Office and other organizations fund destination management communications and marketing.
Why isn’t the Chamber funded by a lodging tax?
In Steamboat Springs, current funding from the accommodations tax goes toward trail building and planning, and as the community just voted on, an STR tax will fund affordable housing infrastructure. Destination management and marketing organization funding comes from the city’s general sales tax fund, of which visitors pay an estimated 40%. This funding plan has been in place since 1984 when the city and the Chamber made an agreement to promote non-ski season months when local business owners voted to forgo a vendor fee that the city paid back to merchants and use these funds to support non-ski season marketing efforts.
How is the Chamber listening to the community?
The Chamber is a member-based business organization. We are led by a board of directors that represents over 20 different industry sectors. A director’s role is to be the representative of their business sector. Additionally, each year we meet with our industry sector advocacy groups, made up of our membership. We survey our members to see what is important to them and what they want us to focus on. We also serve on many different local boards, committees and stakeholder groups. We base our programming, advocacy efforts and priorities on input directly from our members. For our destination management and marketing organization efforts, we also work with a marketing committee, our board of directors and City Council who bring input from their industry peers and constituents.
What else do you want to know?
We hear a lot of conversation about the Chamber, and some of it just isn’t accurate. Fortunately, if you are curious about what the Chamber does, we’re easy to find. The Chamber staff live right here in our community, and our office is conveniently located. Our board of directors are local too, and they help set our direction and priorities. Have questions, comments or concerns? We’d be happy to talk with you. We can’t guarantee that we’ll always agree, but we can promise that we’ll treat you with respect as we all work together to create and realize our vision of an amazing place to live.