Basalt chamber keeps growing |

Basalt chamber keeps growing

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT Like the town it represents, the Basalt Chamber of Commerce is growing fast. Known for holding the annual Basalt River Days event, the nonprofit housed in a historic Midland Railroad caboose in Basalt upped its membership in recent years from 200 to 350 dues-paying businesses. The profile of the chamber is dramatically changing, said Elizabeth Phillips, executive director since 1998. The first change will be new management after Phillips steps down in October, a time when the direction of the nonprofit rests with the board of directors and a new executive director, she said. And Phillips anticipates an infusion of new members when the Willits Town Center is completed.

Incorporated in 1985 to serve the needs of burgeoning businesses in the midvalley area, the chamber grew in 1998 when it began sponsoring Basalt River Days and hired Phillips part time. The chamber operates thanks mostly to member donations totaling more than $60,000 in 2007, as well as some grants from the town of Basalt and some $20,000 annually from a 0.5 percent tax levied on area lodging. The chamber earns about $3,000 annually from its ski pass program, which garners $10 from each individual ski pass purchased by member businesses, and the publication of an annual business directory brings in $5,000, Phillips said. The little red caboose that houses the chamber and an information office in the center of Basalt is currently under renovation, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the town of Basalt and in-kind donations from members and area businesses, Phillips said. The town of Basalt also contributes about $3,000 and manpower to the Basalt River Days event, Phillips said. Expenses include $54,000 in salaries for Phillips and a part-time, year-round assistant, as well as marketing, insurance and printing the annual directory, Phillips said. We accomplish an incredible amount on our budget, Phillips said. The Basalt Chamber of Commerce is becoming a really dynamic, important part of the community.Basalt River Days Basalt River Days, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this weekend, has become a showcase event for the town a community celebration, Phillips said. Held in Lions Park, the celebration includes live music in the evenings, food and lots of games and activities for kids. Basalt River Days operated on a budget of $28,000 in 2007 money completely separate from the chamber budget, Phillips said. Between $18,000 and $20,000 in funding for the Basalt River Days comes from sponsor income, and other revenue sources include sales at the beer garden and at T-shirt stalls, Phillips said. With competition from other nonprofits and events in the valley, volunteers for River Days are hard to come by, Phillips said. And shes had to hire staff to maintain the event, including an event co- director expenses that strain the budget. But Basalt River Days breaks even, thanks to contributions from 40 individuals and area community groups the town of Basalt, Alpine Bank, Valley View Hospital and Aspen Land & Homes top the list. Without them we wouldnt be able to hold this event, Phillips said.Member benefit Basalt Chamber of Commerce members have access to an affordable insurance program, and receive discounts on ski passes for their employees, Phillips said. Though meetings are not held regularly, chamber members get together from time to time and discuss issues that affect the community, and the group lends a hand to other nonprofits in the area, Phillips said. We help with community events, Phillips said, including school functions or connecting people with the business community. Charles Agars e- mail address is