Culver opts out of Madras-JC Chamber group


Council doesnt feel chamber represents city

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Joe Krenowicz, excecutive director of the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, said he has offered to meet with the Culver City Council to discuss the benefits of chamber membership.The city of Culver will not renew its membership with the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce.

At the Culver City Council's last meeting, in September, the council unanimously voted not to pay the annual $135 fee. "The council doesn't feel that the chamber really represents Culver," said Culver Mayor Shawna Clanton, noting that the council has been discussing the issue for the past year.

As she visited with local businesses, Clanton said she heard that some had joined, but later dropped out. "They didn't feel the interest was there for Culver," she said.

The vote wasn't about the money, she continued, but rather the council's feeling that the city didn't belong in the organization.

"We decided we would opt out for a year and see what happens," said Clanton, adding that some councilors also wanted to discontinue the city's membership in Economic Development for Central Oregon.

Because EDCO assisted with Mid-Columbia Lumber's acquisition of the empty Seaswirl facility in 2010, and helped the city obtain a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation to build a rail spur at that location, Clanton said that she persuaded them to remain in the organization.

"The chamber is basically business," said Clanton. "I thought the chamber itself should have offered more to my businesses to get them to join."

"We've had a couple of businesses sitting empty," she said, mentioning that the former Bad Monkey, which is currently empty, "has a lot of potential."

Responding to the city's decision, Joe Krenowicz, executive director of the chamber, said that it is always disappointing to lose a client, customer or member of an organization.

"Either you're not meeting their expectations, or the service level between the two parties is not recognized, or communication is not complete," he said. "All three of them apply."

A couple weeks ago, after the council's vote, Krenowicz extended an invitation to meet with Clanton or the council, but hasn't had a response. "If they don't know what they're getting or what they're expecting, it's pretty much a communication issue."

Culver businesses have expressed interest in establishing a business organization for the city. "If they elected to join a Culver organization, that would be good for their business sector, and it would certainly impact our financials, but it would be good for Culver," he said.

The chamber is involved with the city as part of the Culver High School business advisory group and the River Canyon Country tourism effort, and represents the city on the Jefferson County Education Council, Krenowicz explained.

Whenever he conducts a tour of the county for prospective community members or business employment candidates, Krenowicz said he always includes Madras, Metolius and Culver, often stopping in Culver for ice cream cones.

"Regardless of whether they are a member or not, nothing will change with our efforts or representation on behalf of Culver," he said.

Clanton acknowledged that the chamber has provided assistance to the community. "They've helped us in the past, like with the Crawdad Festival; it's not that they ignore us," she said. "It's just that we're not at the top of their radar."