By Chris Hendrickson, Monitor
Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Copple presented her annual report at a recent Sultan City Council meeting, offering councilmembers a glimpse into what the Chamber has been working on in 2013 and what the goals are for 2014.
VISITOR’S CENTER AND PROMOTION
The visitor’s center, which is staffed by a crew of volunteers, has helped 3,399 walk-in visitors, plus fielding 1,328 phone, email and mail inquiries thus far in 2013.
“We have about the same numbers as the Edmonds visitor’s center which is much more urban,” said Copple. “Our numbers are pretty much exactly the same.”
Copple explained that while some visitors are traveling on U.S. 2 heading towards popular tourist spots like Leavenworth, this is not always the case.
“The visitors we’re seeing are really searching for an authentic experience,” said Copple.
And while Leavenworth is quaintly fashioned to look like a Bavarian village, it doesn’t necessarily reflect the history of the area in which it rests.
“It’s not the authentic experience our salmon festival is…Or our farm festival is,” said Copple.
Through their sponsored and cosponsored events, the Chamber makes an effort to promote and highlight some of the Sky Valley’s abundant history. Shindig focuses on Sultan’s logging history, while Gold Dust Days is based on Gold Bar’s mining history. The Sky Valley Farm Festival offers a hands-on look at the existing agricultural element of the Valley and the focal point of the new Return of the Salmon Festival this fall was Sultan’s rich Native American heritage.
INNOVATION PARTNERSHIP ZONE
Despite the fact that the Washington State Department of Commerce declined to officially designate the Port-to-Pass Innovation Partnership Zone, the chamber is continuing to forge ahead in an effort to encourage industrial and manufacturing firms to become established in the area; particularly recreation-based manufacturing, as recreation was the prevalent theme presented to the Department during the IPZ application process.
The Chamber has recently completed a database of all the industrial properties located within the Sultan city limits which includes tax identification information, flood zone data and other details about the properties. They sent letters to all the property owners requesting information about onsite utilities and what their future plans are for the property.
“If we want to encourage businesses to come to the Sky Valley to set up for industrial and manufacturing jobs, we need to really be able to help match them up with what we’ve got available,” said Copple.
Next the Chamber will work on obtaining similar data for Sultan’s commercial properties.
FURTHER ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN THE SKY VALLEY
The Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce currently has 122 business members along with eight citizen members. One of the ideas the Chamber has developed to promote and support members is through Chamber Bucks.
Chamber Bucks are handcrafted gift cards which may be utilized at any local business, provided that they are a member of the Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce. Although the gift cards are more popular during the holiday season, folks can purchase Chamber Bucks at the visitor’s center all year long.
“They can purchase them in any denomination they want and there’s no expiration on them,” said Copple.
Chamber Bucks gift cards may be spent same-as-cash at any Chamber members’ business. Upon purchase, the purchaser is provided with a current list of all chamber businesses, broken down into different categories such as food, gifts and many others.
“It’s basically a way for the Chamber to put our money where our mouth is when we say we really want to make it easy to shop local,” said Copple.
The Chamber does not profit or take a percentage from the sale of Chamber Bucks. It’s simply a way to encourage people to shop local and to support Sky Valley businesses.
“It’s basically Sky Valley money,” said Copple. “Potentially, it supports all of our members.”
Copple explained that one of the appeals of Chamber Bucks is that they may be used at places that people might not typically consider when doing holiday shopping or purchasing birthday and other gifts. Chamber Bucks can be used at the Chamber’s service-based businesses, as well, enabling folks to gift alternative wish-list items like oil changes, health care and home maintenance.
Last year Chamber Bucks generated nearly $3,000 in sales.
“That’s $3,000 that went into our people’s pockets and not the internet or the mall,” said Copple.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR 2014
Copple reported that the Chamber will continue efforts to both recruit and retain Sky Valley businesses, and are planning to begin after-hours networking events to help strengthen relationships within the business community.
Also on the forefront for 2014 is to continue improving on the chamber website, which features a comprehensive look at current events in the community, volunteer opportunities, and other information. Copple hopes to develop an interactive calendar for the entire Sky Valley that would include data on all local events plus city meetings. A user would be able to view the calendar and click on the event in which they were interested.
Also, murmurings have begun in support of a new and improved rest stop area along U.S. 2 on the south side of the highway in between the roadway and the railroad tracks.
The Chamber will continue supporting local events such as Sultan’s Summer Shindig, the Index Arts Festival, Gold Dust Days, the Fronderosa Frolic and the upcoming Winterfest, which will take place on Dec. 7 at Sultan High School. The chamber hosts many other events throughout the year. For a complete list of events, please visit the Chamber website.
The chamber is dedicated to networking with other agencies in support of the betterment of communities throughout the Sky Valley.
In addition to working with the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau and the Sky Valley Recreation Planning Group, the chamber serves on the Snohomish County Parks Board, the Stevens Pass Greenway Board and the Cascade Loop Board of Directors.
The 440-mile Cascade Loop Scenic Highway was recently featured on Fox News as number two on their list of the top five spectacular fall drives in the country. The Cascade Loop includes U.S. 2 as it extends through the Sky Valley stretching from Everett to Wenatchee.
The Chamber is accepting candidate nominations for the Chamber Board of Directors. There are three board positions available, along with officer’s positions. Send your letter of interest to Debbie@skyvalleyvic.net if you would like additional information. The election will take place on Dec. 4 at the regular chamber meeting.
Chamber meetings take place on the first Wednesday of each month at 11:45 a.m. at Sultan City Hall, which is located at 319 Main St. in Sultan.
The chamber is currently offering a special to help entice new membership. Businesses or nonprofits who join now for 2014 will be included in the 2013 Chamber Bucks promotion for the holidays, which means they will be essentially getting two months of membership for free.
The Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce is unique in that it is not supported by tax dollars. The chamber operates on money acquired through fundraising, membership and donations. For more information about becoming a member or to make a donation, contact Debbie Copple at (360) 793-0983 or drop by the visitor’s center, located at 320 Main St. in Sultan.
The price of membership varies and can be located online at http://www.skyvalleychamber.com/.