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Chamber Forum Recap: What can we expect from the Chamber, Visit Estes Park and the EDC

Chamber Forum Recap: What can we expect from the Chamber, Visit Estes Park and the EDC

Chamber Forum Recap: What can we expect from the Chamber, Visit Estes Park and the EDC

One of the most frequently asked questions is, "What is the difference between what the Chamber does and the EDC or Visit Estes Park?" So we got all three together to answer your questions:
 

Question Eric with Visit Estes Park Adam with Estes Park EDC Donna with Estes Chamber

How is your organization structured and funded?

Our role to market our destination for visitors. 100% of what we do is marketing and managing tourism using the 2% lodging tax from the taxing district (based on revenue from the town and county). We get some additional funding from ad revenue.  Most of the activities we do you won't see because we're marketing outside of Estes Park to bring people here. The EDC is not funded through memberships or tax dollars, but financed through economic development investments through the county, town and major corporations like (YMCA, Estes Park Health, Estes Valley Library, the Ridgeline, ,etc.) and sustaining supporters. We have received some money through grants -- 100k since 2013. We're applying for a Cares grant of $800k and that decision is still pending decision. The International Economic Development Corp. (IEDC) houses EDOs all over the country. Some town's have an economic development dept. in the town. Estes does not have that, so they invest in the EDC. The Chamber is funded 100% by our members, 20-40% via member dues and the rest through events and fundraisers like the golf tournament. We created the Chamber foundation so we could apply for more grants as a 501C3 non-profit, because the Chamber is a 501C6 and does not qualify for many grant programs.
 
The Foundation will run three fundraisers each year and a silent auction at every chamber event.

Describe your #1 customer? Who do you serve the most?

Tourism stakeholders, which means businesses that rely on tourism. Also, keeping in mind what's best for the community as relates to tourism -- retail, lodging, attractions. Toursim involves both the leisurevacationer and group/corporate market. The EDC's customer is the entire Estes Valley from Allenspark to Drake. We don't focus on individual businesses. We focus on the sustainability and health of the EV. I'd say stakeholders rather than customers. 
 
We cross paths with the efforts of VEP and the Chamber like water splashes over swims lanes.
The Chamber's #1 customer is our member. I work for members under the governance of the board. Because you are my boss, it's not my job to have an opinion but to represent the opinion of our members where the voice of business counts.

What are your  top 3 priorities?

Our top goal is recovery from COVID and getting as normal as possible. The next two would be supporting that goal with marketing and events. BASE is the program that the Cares grant will expand. It's a six month program for start ups and business owners with leading experts from N. Colo and US. Second is infrastructure and critical issues like housing, child care, broadband (needs assessment to get BB). Third is BEAR -- expansion and retention, grassroots of helping with workforce retention, train, raise business sustainability and health. Thomas chimed in that "we are ecosystem builders, diversifying the economy, attracting people with business ideas and help them be successful. We've helped 10 new businesses start since the pandemic. In connecting business and community, our member goals are centered around making Estes Park a great place to live, work and play.
 
Connecting business owners, developing the workforce, protecting the values of the community, fostering the spirit of Estes Park and understanding the mind of our customer, our guests.

VEP sells enhanced ads and so does the Chamber. What's the difference?

Web site a portal for visitors. Digital is marketing designed to drive traffic to the web site. To be fair we offer an enhanced listing to get a better position on the web. We also have a visitor's guide. To offset the cost of printing, we sell ad space. We don't sell ads. We don't have a member directory. We don't promote businesses. We promote the economic health of the valley. We don't raise funds. We do an annual community breakfast and we charge to cover the cost of food. In that sponsorship lane of the revenue model, we sell sponsorships in our events, web site, newsletters… to give our members more visibility and support the Chamber's operating costs.

Where should I send people to find lodging availability?

Last minute availability page. We have a very robust booking system. Free for all our lodging properties connecting directly to your booking system. N/A We send hundreds of visitors a month to the VisitEstesPark.com last minute availability page.

Does Visit Estes Park manage the Visitor's Center?

The Visitor Center is run by the Town of Estes Park, run by town employees. We work closely to ensure a great experience. There's also the national park visitor centers on park info. Visitor's thinking of starting a business will come to the EDC We get hundreds of visitor calls. We partner with Visitor's Center, Visit Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park Visitor's Center to answer questions.

Who can help me start or sell my business?

N/A There is lots of information cradle to grave and we're part of the whole cycle from the beginning to the end. We manage demographics a business owner will need about the town. We would be the ones to create a welcome basket for a new business.

Who can connect me with other businesses in my sector?

Send 'em to Donna We look at clusters in lodging, retail, craft beverage, outdoor…the more we coalesce these groups into network, the better, like through the startup meetup. Referral marketing leads groups. Co-op advertising.

If I need help getting the Town to change it’s policy on something, who can help?

We would not get involved with policy change. I'm thinking zoning, code changes, stuff like that. For instance, a business owner needed to ask for a correction on a zoning change. Workforce housing developers were not building over three floors; EDC had the height limit raised. Advocacy is a primary focus for the Chamber. We keep close relationships with Town administration, County Commissioners, State senators and US house of representatives to take your business needs to the places where people can affect change.

Will the group market supplant the leisure market?

No. It's just another market. Any group of 10 or more, including weddings, family reunions, etc. Association, corporate meetings too. Mission is to make Estes a sustainable economy year round. The development of the group market is about sustainability and diversity. Industry clusters as they increase in power. Since 2013 the shoulder seasons are getting longer. As some point we will be a year round destination. The Chamber is leveraging member connections to add to that group business.

Where I come from the Chamber is part of the EDC…why can't we merge all three?

A lot of towns have three distinct entities like we do. Some EDCs and EDOs are tax funded others are investment funded. We sit on each others boards as well and speak into the decisions on all three boards, even if we don't have a voting seat. I'd also say funding influences how we can advocate. Where business needs advocacy with the town, I'm the most unbiased resource since EDC and VEP have significant town funding. My boss is my member base, so staying independent provides us with a stronger unbiased voice.

The Chamber Community Forum was recorded is available to view on the Estes Chamber of Commerce YouTube Channel.

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