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WL Chamber of Commerce hits reboot

Frank to replace Dan Gardner, who moved to Corvallis


TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Taking over as president at the West Linn Chamber of Commerce, City Councilor Thomas Frank hopes to modernize the chamber and expand its reach in the community. Last August, when the West Linn City Council heard results from focus groups conducted with local business owners, the prevailing thought was that the city lacked a “business personality.”

The Chamber of Commerce rated particularly low in the survey and is now undergoing a significant overhaul with six out of eight new board members starting with the new year.

City Councilor Thomas Frank is preparing to take over as president.

Former president Dan Gardner recently moved to Corvallis, thus opening the top spot for a new face. Frank jumped at the opportunity.

“Towards the end of December I had a meeting with the executive committee and a few board members asking if I would consider taking on a role,” Frank said. “Their thrust was I could help modernize the chamber a bit, and have a different spin on the chamber’s value to businesses.”

Currently CFO at Frank Development Company, Frank also teaches graduate and undergraduate courses at Marylhurst University, Clackamas Community College, University of Phoenix, and Portland State University. He has a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Portland.

Gardner served as president for about a year and a half, beginning in June of 2014. In building on Gardner’s work, Frank says he hopes to “bring a fresh, new look to the chamber.”

“I want to give the tools to these folks to survive and prosper,” he said. “We have the second highest per capita in home-based businesses (in Oregon) — fantastic. The chamber doesn’t have a lot of these members, so I’m trying to target that group of people and make it so not only can they network with other businesses in West Linn, but also have the resources I can bring in from Small Business Development Centers and Clackamas Community College.”

The key, Frank said, is to hold more specialized networking events to fit the needs of different business models around the community. “We might have a marketing group, we might have a financial group, said Frank. “We’re trying to create those groups where a business needs a certain aspect of their team augmented, and they’re trying to find those connections (at the chamber).”

The chamber does not receive funding from the City, so Frank does not anticipate conflicts of interest arising due to his role as a City Councilor. However, he noted that “if the chamber were to put in a grant for money like (Historic Willamette) Main Street did, of course I would recuse myself.”

With Frank’s arrival also comes an overhaul of the chamber board itself. Just two current members — Jennifer Miller and Melissa Miller — will remain on the board, while new members include Vice President Michael LoGiudice, Kris Ryan, Mike Jones, Molly Macom and Kris Kachirisky.

“West Linn is unique,” said Macom, a broker at Westlake Properties who returns to the chamber after an eight-year hiatus. “It hosts many in-home businesses as well as the typical ‘brick and mortar.’ We’ve done a great job with networking and I’d like to expand to have more chamber functions that support the needs of all businesses types.”

Beyond that, Macom also hopes to have regular hours at the chamber office — which has no staff — and perhaps create an internship or volunteer position. She also emphasized active membership and the addition of new community events.

While the new board members officially assumed their duties Feb. 1, a right to petition will remain open for 30 days. New candidates can be nominated by petition with signatures from at least 25 percent of the chamber’s active members. Any qualifying petitions would be presented to chamber members for approval.

Should the board remain in place, Frank’s goal will be to empower businesses in the city.

“We should be looking at ‘How do we strengthen businesses? How do we make them survive? How do we make them prosper?’” he said. “I think that’s what was lost before.”

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