Thirty-six engaged community leaders attended an Area-Chamber of Commerce meeting Feb. 18 via ZOOM. Representatives from the Quincy, Indian Valley, Lost Sierra, Chester-Almanor Area, and Loyalton chambers met to establish lines of communication, develop strategic plans, build value for Chamber members, bring resources, share ideas, and discuss challenges/opportunities.
Facilitator Clint Koble, a resident of Lake Almanor and Advisor for Sierra Small Business Development Center (Sierra SBDC), described the meeting as “long overdue.” He challenged Chambers to redefine the role they play in their communities and to focus on economic development.
Also in attendance were Plumas County staff, Plumas County District 4 Supervisor Greg Hagwood, personnel from the Plumas and Lassen national forests, field reps from Congressman Doug LaMalfa, Senator Dahle, Assemblywoman Dahle, Sierra SBDC, Senior Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE), Feather River Tourism Marketing District (FRTMD), and other current and past Chamber members.
Koble opened the meeting by discussing the effects COVID-19 has had on small businesses and in particular very-small businesses, non-profits, and ultimately the Chambers that he called the “economic engine of each community.”
Chamber challenges discussed were funding, staffing, lack of resources, and how to create value for Chamber members. Some called for past Plumas County support for Chambers to be renewed to put “gas in the tank of the chamber economic engine” to keep the engine running strong, and to create liaisons with all the Chambers. Koble asked, “Who else is going to pick up the pieces of shattered communities and shuttered businesses, breathe life back into economic development, and promote local entrepreneurship?” It will be your local Chamber.
There was considerable discussion on the fear of growth that hampers economic development in rural communities, which are actually losing businesses and population. Another message was for tourism to not only attract people to Plumas communities but to also encourage them to relocate their businesses and families. Those discussions led to future investments of high-speed internet and also charging stations for electric cars to accommodate both tourist and local needs.
Leslie Edlund, representing the Plumas National Forest, made a presentation on new voice mail recordings and lists of links to better serve tourists and residents for the upcoming season that was well-received. Russell Nickerson, Lassen County District Ranger, promised the same service and added “The Lassen Forest wants to be your partner in Economic Development.”
Suggestions included Chambers working better together by sharing strategies and funding models, developing better-trained Board Members, implementing short-term and long-term Strategic Planning, synching events calendars, and using the Feather River Tourism Marketing District as a partner and tool in economic development.
A follow-up, working-meeting is planned for late April. Contact Clint Koble at [email protected] or (775) 843-4081 for more information or a link to review the recorded meeting.