The Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and four other Roaring Fork and Colorado River Valley chambers (Aspen, Basalt, Colorado River Valley and Glenwood Springs) have joined the Mountain Chamber Alliance (MCA) to strengthen partnerships across the central Rockies region.
Existing MCA member chambers include: Buena Vista, Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte, Grand Lake, Gunnison, Gypsum, Salida, Steamboat Springs, Summit and Vail Valley.
MCA was created to help advance public policy goals that enhance economic vitality and oppose those that could negatively impact communities and businesses across the mountain region.
Andrea Stewart, executive director of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, began working at the chamber in August 2008; she’s been the executive director for the past 10 years. Stewart spoke to The Sopris Sun about the recent announcement.
The Carbondale Chamber is a non-partisan, not-for-profit 501(c)(6) business association. Its associated businesses pay dues for a three-year membership period.
The chamber works closely with the Town of Carbondale (TOC), the Third Street Center, Carbondale Arts and the Carbondale Creative District. The TOC does not have an economic development department. Still, alongside these and other community partners, Stewart said, “We do what we can to be the voice of businesses in our community.”
In addition, Stewart explained, “We work very closely and have great relationships, in my humble opinion, with other chambers up and down the Valley.”
The Carbondale Chamber has over 440 members — the majority of which operate in Carbondale. However, Stewart elaborated, some members are based throughout the Roaring Fork and Colorado River Valleys — including in Grand Junction — and reach as far as Denver.
“We’re seeing more and more members, especially within the past two years, ‘digital nomads’ [who conduct their business entirely over the internet], with businesses based outside of the Valley,” Stewart shared.
Part of MCA’s intent is to apply the collective impact of chambers across the central Rockies to ensure that the mountain communities have a voice in regional and state issues — including within the Colorado Assembly.
With the 2022 Colorado Legislative Session having wrapped up in May, Stewart anticipates MCA, with a larger alliance, gaining more momentum when the next session convenes in January 2023.
MCA has identified key priorities and common themes impacting mountain regions. These include workforce housing, transportation, early childcare, tourism funding and destination management, short-term rentals, workforce development, broadband and healthcare.
”Carbondale isn’t the only community seeing these issues; these topics are impacting all of our mountain regions,” Stewart explained.
“I’m excited to be one of the partners on this, working with our fellow alliance members to share resources and ideas and be that larger voice for business[es] because we depend on them,” she continued.
The pandemic proved, not only that we rely on businesses for goods and services, but many of them are social gathering places.
“What’s unique about our community — we’re talking about eclectic, fun hippies and this amazing heritage with our ranching culture — is that it’s so cool that all of this can blend into one unique community,” Stewart stated. “Carbondale is a great place to do that. It is the epitome of vitality, partnerships and working together.”
The chamber hopes to bolster “a small sliver of the success of our businesses by helping them get their names out there and [providing opportunities] to communicate and network to create those partnerships.”
The Tourism Council of Carbondale (along with First Friday) comes under the chamber umbrella. Stewart said they work closely with the Colorado Tourism Office, a division of Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT).
With Carbondale’s designation as a Certified Creative District under OEDIT’s Colorado Creative Industries, “We have amazing opportunities right here in Carbondale, which I think helps put us on the map. At the state level, we can say, ‘We’re doing great things too! Come support us.’ I think that message is getting clearer.”
In part, MCA also hopes to level the playing field concerning the attention and resources afforded the Front Range. “This is an opportunity to be a stronger voice advocating for our businesses. As mountain, rural and resort regions, sometimes we get forgotten, but by becoming an MCA member, our local voices will be amplified,” Stewart concluded.