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Community weighs in on open Chamber position

Business and community leaders have specific feedback on what qualities they believe the next Chamber executive director should possess
With the critical position of Executive Director for the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce open, all eyes are on the decision-making process.
   First and foremost, local business leaders understand the need for an individual who can address and act on economic development for the community.
    Interim Executive Director for the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce Joe Becker is also a local business owner. As a value of being a Chamber member, he said that he needs the support of the Chamber in providing resources and tools to his business, such as training and classes. He also believes that this position is crucial in working with groups and organizations outside of the community to hold promotions and events that bring people into the community.
   “We can get the customers to your door, and it’s your job once they are there to tell about your product and your business and to make them a customer of yours,” said Becker. “It’s not the Chamber’s job to make them a customer.”
   Becker said that the Mid Oregon Personnel is providing the service of background screening of applicants for the Executive Director position, and then a hiring committee that is separate from the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce Board will go through applications and interviews.
   Becker believes that the Chamber Executive Director should support businesses by getting people into the community to see what is available. He also commented that the person in consideration must be aware that looking at numbers on paper doesn’t add up to what is happening in the community.
   “There’s a lot going on that is not represented in numbers on a spread sheet.”
   Jason Carr, previously the Prineville Economic Director for Central Oregon (EDCO) for five years, thinks that having a prior business background for the position helps, but he thinks that the most important qualification is having the passion and energy to be out helping the community and advocating for the chamber members.
   “First and foremost, the person has to be very outgoing, have good people skills, and the ability to get out into the community and keep in contact with businesses and chamber members,” said Carr.
   Carr said that with EDCO in the community as a proponent for the general trade-sector businesses, the chamber position needs to advocate for downtown retail and commercial businesses.
   “I think someone who can be out there and advocate for those businesses, not only in terms of being able to help them, but also advocating for them on a policy level is important as well,” emphasized Carr.
   He added that the Chamber and EDCO positions absolutely need to complement one another.
   “There certainly can be cross-over as well, but I think it’s vitally important that the Chamber be the cheerleader for a lot of the “mom and pop” retail stores in town.”
   City of Prineville Business Manager Steve Forrester noted that the Executive Director for the Chamber should have a clear understanding of the local economic engine and how it works. He also believes that they should have a good pulse on the businesses operating in the community and their needs.
   “What are the future opportunities for the community?” said Forrester. “This person really needs to be plugged into all the business leaders and also have an understanding of what is going on with economic development.”
    He added that they also need to know what is going on with the City and the County in terms of their master plan and the things that need to be in place to continue to move forward as a community.
   City of Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe believes that this key position needs to participate with the City of Prineville in the quarterly meetings where there are key leaders from the County and City.
   “They need to be active participants in that,” said Roppe. “They cannot just sit back and observe. They need to be bringing new concepts forward and participate in that quarterly meeting so that we are all on the same page.”
   She and Forrester added that this individual needs to be outgoing and a little bit of a cheerleader for the local businesses.
   Jim Lane, a local business owner, also thinks the Chamber Executive Director should help promote Prineville. Like Roppe and Forrester, he agrees that they should go to meetings that affect the business community. Lane also would like to see this position promote the school system, and also help with the Hospice Auction and the annual Crook County Fair.
   “They are going to have to get involved with EDCO, they will have to get involved with the Merchant’s Committee, and attend some of the City Council meetings,” said Lane, “and make it a more unified Chamber.”
   He also thinks the new executive director should have a calendar of events that is posted so everyone in the business community can be on the same page.
   Business owner and former City of Prineville Mayor Mike Wendel noted that the position of Executive Director should be laid out by the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, with input from chamber members and from EDCO.
   “Now is the perfect time for us to reevaluate what we want that position to do for our community,” Wendel commented of the position.
   He thinks the hiring process should include a lot of discussion from a lot of people in the community.
   Sandy and Rich Priday are business owners in Prineville and Madras, and they would like to see the Executive Director actively recruit new businesses and help get businesses already in town excited about their community.
   “They need to be a marketing type person,” said Sandy. “They don’t have to have a business background, but they have to have the kind of personality to communicate and work with people and get some excitement.”
   Becker said that Mid Oregon Personnel would be going through applications this week and the hiring process would move forward from there with the hiring committee.