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Chamber of commerce is ready to move on

Chamber announces move to north Wilsonville effective at the end of 2013


by: JOSH KULLA - The Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce will be moving to this north Wilsonville facility owned by the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association at the end of the year.The Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce announced last week it intends to move all operations to a north Wilsonville building owned by the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association.

The move, which will take effect at the end of the year, was made public July 23 at the 40th anniversary celebration of the chamber’s 1973 founding. This marks the end of years of collaboration with the city of Wilsonville and Clackamas County at the Wilsonville Visitor Information Center. by: WILSONVILLE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE - 2014 Chamber President Darren Harmon sepaks at last week's gathering at which the group's move to a new building was announced.

“I think, as Ray (Phelps, chamber president) and many of our board members have said, we’ve spent a lot of resources, time and energy managing this facility,” said Steve Gilmore, chamber CEO. “And by getting out of this situation it allows us more time to do traditional chamber-related things such as business advocacy and developing enhanced small-business programming. From my standpoint, that means we’ll be much more member-focused instead of visitor-focused, which in the long run helps our business community as well.”

More than 80 people, both chamber members and others, attended the 40th anniversary event, which was held at the visitor center as part its regular business after-hours series of networking meetings.

“The move, and the shift away from managing a visitor center, is giving us an opportunity to reinvent the chamber and how it works,” said Darren Harmon, 2014 chamber president-elect. “Over the next few months we will be evaluating all chamber programs to see what works and what we have done simply because we have always done it that way. We believe by looking at our programs and streamlining processes, we can be even more effective in giving services to our members.”

Gilmore is excited about the announcement and the move, which will place the chamber in the same building as Oregon’s largest statewide business association.

“The Restaurant and Lodging Association is dynamic,” Gilmore said. “And we’ll be able to tap into their legislative experience, some of their designers and other things for projects, so it’s going to be a really nice partnership.”

The chamber’s overhead costs also will decrease substantially, according to Gilmore.

“So it was absolutely the right move,” he said. “It was the unanimous choice of our board committee that reviewed all the options out there.”

The new space will give the chamber roughly 1,300 square feet of true professional office space, something it has never had, said Gilmore, who declined to say how much the lease is.

“It gives us room to grow, it gives us access to conference rooms and meeting spaces, and people still can easily find it,” he said. “You take a look at all of these things and it’s just one advantage after another.”

An 18-month saga

by: JOSH KULLA - The Wilsonville Visitor Center has served as the chamber's home for more than a decade and will be occupied in the future by the city of Wilsonvilles Parks and Recreation Department.

The announcement also marks the end of an 18-month saga involving the chamber, city and county that stirred up controversy and hard feelings among various parties involved.

At issue was the chamber’s use of city and county money to help run the visitor information center. In exchange for that service, the chamber has been allowed to use the center as its base of operations for more than a decade. In 2012, however, accusations arose that the chamber was using that money, taken from city and county lodging and room tax revenue, for purposes other than tourism and visitor information.

At one point, Gilmore was even accused of using public money to pay his own salary.

Meanwhile, an extensive financial review of the situation in late 2012 found the chamber had done nothing wrong with regard to the use of lodging and room tax revenue. The situation started to calm down entering 2013, but by then chamber officials were determined to find a way forward and out of what had become to them an undesirable entanglement.

“Quite honestly, the visitor center has been a distraction for the chamber for far too long,” said Phelps. “As an organization, I am glad we can now focus entirely on our core mission of making business a priority. Advocating for business by offering information, networking opportunities, and yes, fighting to make doing business in our city easier, are things we will be redoubling our efforts on.”

For more information about the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce, visit wilsonvillechamber.com.




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