Summit County Chamber of Commerce faces turmoil |

Summit County Chamber of Commerce faces turmoil

Caitlin Row
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit County Chamber of Commerce essentially closed its doors Thursday – though not permanently – by laying off all three employees.

Because of economic hardship, any future day-to-day operations must be taken care of by volunteers, the board and members.

“The Chamber is absolutely not closing,” said Sharon Russell, the recent executive director of the Summit Chamber of Commerce.

According to Chamber president Rob Waterman, the Chamber board is in the process of restructuring its operations by reducing the scope of services because “membership dropped severely.”

“We’re 95 percent membership driven in income,” Waterman said. “We lost $45,000 in 2009 in terms of non-renewals. … A lot of people are really being squeezed, and chamber membership [seems to be] what you can do without.”

The Chamber does plan to continue in some manner, and the board must figure out how many volunteers are willing to help before they can determine a feasible level of operation. Waterman noted that the board will seek lots of input during the restructuring period.

“We think they play an important role in the community,” said John McMahon, the executive director of the Breckenridge Resort Chamber. “We’ll certainly keep watch of the situation and help them in whatever makes sense for the community.”

Other members expressed shock when they found out.

“I was surprised,” said Jayne Esser, the marketing director of the Outlets at Silverthorne and a Chamber member. “We certainly had not been aware of anything that had been leading towards this. We definitely want to be in touch with the board of directors to find out the scope of services that they will continue to provide.”

Chamber members must wait for answers as activities are being evaluated to determine what can stay and what can go. Waterman said he’s unsure if the Gold Rush treasure hunt planned for fall will still happen. Also unclear is how the Chamber’s main information center in Silverthorne will be maintained.

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