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The chamber connection: Helping businesses and residents

Chambers of commerce keep communities ‘in the loop’ through access

Dozens of business owners and city officials came out Feb. 5 for the Metro North Chamber of Commerce’s “New Frontiers in Urban Renewal” breakfast at the Doubletree Hotel in Westminster. The breakfast discussion is one example of how chamber groups help build connections among local business owners, residents and elected officials.
Dozens of business owners and city officials came out Feb. 5 for the Metro North Chamber of Commerce’s “New Frontiers in Urban Renewal” breakfast at the Doubletree Hotel in Westminster. The breakfast discussion is one example of how chamber groups help build connections among local business owners, residents and elected officials.
Chambers of Commerce are designed to help their businesses grow and prosper in the community, bring in new customers and contribute to the economy.

But that’s not their only focus — chambers also inform and connect the residents of their communities.

“If businesses thrive, residents do as well,” said Pam Ridler, president of the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce. “We live in the community, too, and want it to keep growing and improving.”

With all the connections and resources available to them, chambers can serve as critical connections between businesses, nonprofits, local governments and residents.

“We work with the West Chamber and Arvada Chamber, because they provide great business connections, and because we’re always looking for experience faculty,” said Kim Rein, director of marketing and communications at Red Rocks Community College. “When we were raising capital for our Arvada campus, they were great in helping us raising awareness in the community.”

Training and leadership classes are also often hosted by chambers to get residents more involved.

“The chamber offers a leadership program, a young professionals program and various seminars,” wrote Angela Habben, Metro North Chamber president and CEO, in an email interview. “All these provide diverse insight and information into the regional community and benefit one’s business — and personal — growth and development.”

Two of the most common ways residents interact with chambers are through chambers’ resources and special events.

Resources for newcomers, shoppers
“When I needed to move a couple states over, the first place I called was the chamber of commerce of the city where I was moving,” said Andrea LaRew, president of Highlands Ranch’s chamber. “I wish more residents knew to use us as a resource. If someone needs something, we can help them or know someone who can.”

Chambers often serve as a first point of contact for new residents, providing welcome kits and guides to the city. They also provide information to tourists interested in learning about hot spots to visit and entertainment options.

“We’re set up at the Arvada Visitor Center, and are able to interact with people just visiting our city,” said Kami Welch, president of the Arvada Chamber of Commerce. “Our place is to be on the home turf and educate and connect people in the community.”

For the person looking for a plumber, real estate agent or insurance company, chambers make connecting to reputable businesses easy through online directories and in-person recommendations.

“We all band together to promote Jeffco businesses,” said Pam Bales, president and CEO of Jefferson County’s West Chamber. “We have a huge list of businesses to connect with people who need a wide range of services.”

For those who prefer a physical resource, chambers create guides that residents can pick up and keep in their car or home. But more and more chambers have embraced social media and technology to extend the reach of businesses in creative and interactive ways.

“As a chamber, we’re always in the loop on what’s happening in the community,” LaRew said. “It’s all about access and connection.”

Community events, large and small
When a visitor is sampling some of the best Jeffco eateries at Taste of the West, checking out sweet rides at the Englewood Car Show or watching a bull rider at the Douglas County Fair, they’re taking part in a chamber-sponsored event.

Many cities’ signature events are hosted or sponsored by their chambers, which serve the dual purpose of highlighting and connecting residents to member businesses, but also promote the city.

“The Douglas County Fair and Rodeo has been part of the history here for 60 years,” Ridler said. “We also have the Lighting of the Star event, and the Colorado Artfest is going into its 28th year.”

Beyond the big events, chambers host smaller community-driven happenings that connect residents with everyone from nonprofits to elected officials. These events are open to all residents.

“We have second and fourth Friday coffees in the morning at different area businesses, which helps us reach our residents directly,” said Randy Penn, director of the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce. “One of the things we’ve had to change is how we reach out to citizens. We have a great relationship with the city, and our next step is getting more residents involved.”

Some of the Arvada Chamber’s most popular events are its third Friday breakfasts, where attendees discuss everything from legislative wrap-ups to the state of the city, county, transportation and much more.

“We host a candidate forum every year that is really well-attended by residents,” Welch said. “We’re always looking at ways to tackle these issues. Sometimes it gets heated, depending on the subject, but that’s how a good discussion goes.”

Smaller chambers, like the West Colfax Community Association, host monthly morning meetings, that provide information and the opportunity to make important community connections.

“My brand new business wouldn’t exist without the WCCA,” said Gene Kalesti, owner of Pure Colorado Event Center and Kitchen. “All the connections needed to get started, I made the association’s meetings.”

In the end, so much of what chambers do comes down to a single word — connection. That applies to businesses, residents and the community at large.

“Our publications of a city guide that talks about Westminster, open job postings on our website, resident community bags and an online events calendar, ensure people can take on an active role in the community,” wrote Juliet Abdel, Westminster Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, in an email interview. “Residents can also partner as community investors and participate in committees and projects that make a significant impact in our city.”


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