by: GAZETTE PHOTO BY RAY PITZ - Nancy Bruton, executive director of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce, is heading to a new adventure, selling advertising at KGW-TV Channel 8.After more than four year’s leading Sherwood’s Chamber of Commerce, Nancy Bruton is heading out.

Specifically, Bruton recently accepted a job in advertising sales with KGW TV Channel 8.

“It should be pretty cool,” Bruton said of her new job, which officially started at the end of May.

As she leaves, Bruton said she will miss those she has served with, noting that the 11-member chamber board really helped to put her at the top of her game.

“It was an honor to be a piece of that,” she said.

As a result, Bruton said she’s felt extremely supported by the chamber’s board, noting that in the past, board members have called her even while she’s out on a jog just to see how she was doing.

“I never would have been able to do it without those board members,” she said.

Burton said much of her time was spent advocating for local businesses, and she believes area businesses know they can rely on the organization.

“Our chamber reflects roughly 50 percent of the businesses in Sherwood with business licenses,” said Bruton, and she believes those businesses find value in being members of the 275-member chamber.

That 50 percent membership is huge, she pointed out. Some neighboring chambers have only between 15 percent and 20 percent business membership.

Having grown up in Sherwood and graduating from Sherwood High School, Bruton already knew the community before ever being hired for the job.

As a youngster, she recalled attending Cruisin’ Sherwood, the annual car show that is the chamber’s biggest fundraiser, producing 35 percent of the organization’s operating budget for the year.

Cruisin, Bruton said, is a great example of volunteers coming together to put on a major undertaking, saying it highlights the passion of a local car club as well as the cooperation of other groups including the city of Sherwood, which donates in-kind labor to help pull off the two-day event. In the past, the event has drawn as many as 20,000 spectators based on aerial photographs.

And those spectators come to town to spend money.

“That’s financial impact to our community,” Bruton said.

The chamber’s other funding comes from dues, along the publication of the chamber’s annual business directory, and proceeds from the Great Onion Festival, an event where Bruton helped peel onions when she was a child.

Over the years, Bruton said one of the most evident changes in Sherwood’s business environment has been the addition of artisan businesses, that is, people who possess hobbies or passions they want to transform into a business. What often determines their success is passion.

Throughout Bruton’s tenure, the chamber has tried to highlight its artisan draws, not the least being local vineyards and wineries.

In November, the chamber sponsored the “12 @ 12 Vintners’ Forum,” a gathering that attracted local winery owners, business people and government officials in an effort to lay the ground work to highlight Sherwood’s wine industry.

At the time, Bruton said maps of local wineries were the most requested item at the Sherwood Visitors’ Center, and that the city boasted no less than 26 wineries within Sherwood’s ZIP code.

“Ultimately we recognized a niche industry that was not part of the conversation,” Bruton said of the chamber’s decision to hold the wine summit, which turned out to be a good way to draw attention to wine-related ventures.

“But there’s more work to be done,” she said, noting that there are other niche portions of the community that the chamber wants to pay attention to as well.

While the chamber has had major successes, Bruton and many in the business community were surprised by the reaction by some in the spring of 2013 when Walmart announced plans to build a superstore in Sherwood.

The announcement drew the wrath of many as witnessed in Sherwood City Council meetings at the time.

Bruton said she believes residents made it clear that there needs to be a community conversation among residents when a new business plans to locate in Sherwood.

“Citizens want to be able to say these are the type of businesses we want in the city,” she said.

As to whether Walmart will hurt or help small businesses, Bruton pointed out there are pros and cons to any business opening in a city. She said Walmart has already reached out to support and make contributions and donations to several events around town.

Bruton said it will be ultimately be the choice of consumers who will decide where they want to shop.

In addition to her chamber duties, Bruton has served as a member of the Western Association of Chamber Executives, an organization that enhances and promotes the growth of chamber executives. She was the youngest member on the board, representing the smallest city in the group.

During a recent board meeting in Denver, part of the discussion centered on issues related to how to get larger companies to invest in growth and development of small businesses.

So what does Bruton think is her greatest accomplishment during her tenure?

“I would say my biggest personal accomplishment was to step back and see the chamber working — for individuals, for businesses,” she said.

She pointed out that the chamber in the past has stepped up to help out the community even on issues that aren’t specifically business-related.

One of those occurred when the chamber got a call from a woman who was in tears because she needed a wheelchair but didn’t have the resources to buy one and didn’t know where to turn. A local business quickly stepped up to the plate to purchase a wheelchair for the woman, Bruton said.

Chamber board members said Bruton’s time with the chamber brought a lot to the table.

“Nancy Bruton came to the Sherwood chamber at a point where we were ready to expand how we connect to the community at large and to Sherwood businesses,” said Jim Haynes, a board member and past chamber president. “I think she brought skills, (even) without previous chamber experience, that fit very well to open and expand those connections.”

Haynes said Bruton had extensive experience in long-range planning, social media, scheduling and other areas, and proved to be a “strong and dynamic choice” to lead the organization.

Renee Brouse, executive director of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce, praised Bruton as well.

“Nancy is an energetic fun person with boundless enthusiasm and a ‘can-do’ attitude,” she said. “She has a very sunny disposition and a ready smile.”

Brouse said Bruton helped mold and shape the chamber’s social media endeavors and proved to be a good liaison between Washington County Visitors Association and the Western Association of Chamber Executives. 

“She brought with her a solid love of this community and a passion for building business.  We saw an increase in new members and retention,” she added.

So what type of person does Bruton expect the next chamber director to be?

“I trust they’ll pick an amazing leader and that the community welcomes them with open arms,” said Bruton. “It’s not the easiest job, but it’s the most rewarding.”

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