Chamber rolling out fresh programs
New board members and staff energize business promotion
“Think Outside” is the slogan of the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce, appealing to visitors to enjoy the area’s abundant outdoor resources and get creative with their vacation plans. Meanwhile, the chamber itself has been doing a lot of thinking outside of the box, to support local businesses and develop long-term programs that draw attention to Ridgway’s assets.
A 2018 Ridgway Chamber youth ambassador, youth volunteer fairs, a photo contest, new board members, and several cooperative promotional efforts with Ouray, other chambers and the state tourism office are among the many projects keeping a crew of chamber contractors busy.
In a change from the past, the Ridgway Chamber no longer depends on a working board, but contracts the bulk of the work to local professionals — the result of a change in the board’s philosophy, as well as additional funding through increased lodging taxes over the past two years.
“We have made critical progress on the staffing front by engaging a team of staff and consultants in many aspects of the community, including the Creative Corridor Project, Main Street America education, Ridgway online presence project, youth volunteer fair and Visitors Guide development for 2019,” Chamber Board President Colin Lacy said.
The Creative Corridor Project is a collaboration between the chamber, Ridgway Creative District and four other creative districts in Colorado. Partially funded by a $25,000 grant from the Colorado Tourism Office, the corridor promotion kicked off with the release of the first travel itinerary on the state website in early May.
At an international tourism conference in Denver in early May, the chamber participated in a state promotion to post photos with welcome messages. To obtain a photo for the promotion, the chamber held the “Welcome to Ridgway — Think Outside” Photo Contest for two weeks in April.
The contest had two winners: “View from Mt. Sneffels Couloir” by Alyssa Austin and “Old Truck in Field” by John Wood, each of whom won $100. Three photos also were picked for honorable mention: “Floating above Ridgway” by Lisa Kral, “Cimarron Alpenglow” by Jeremy Riehle and “Enchanted-Mesa-Trail” by Bonnie Tasch. The winning photos and many contest submissions will be appearing on the chamber’s social media, website and possibly in the 2019 Visitors Guide.
The chamber’s website, ridgwaycolorado.com, was redesigned and relaunched in May 2017. It continues to rank as the top Google search result for keyword “Ridgway Colorado” and related searches. Josh Gowans, of Ridgway’s Peak Media, continues to optimize the site’s searchability, while Tanya Ishikawa, of BT Multimedia Communications, updates content weekly.
Ashley King-Grambley continues as the chamber’s longtime Facebook specialist and eblast editor, posting photos, events and announcements contributed by the community. The first-ever Ridgway Chamber youth ambassador, Elizabeth Mueller, is the main contributor to the new @ridgwaycolorado Instagram account, which was created this spring.
“We started the youth ambassador program with the vision and support of the chamber’s communications partner, Tanya Ishikawa. This is a small first step to amplify the youth voice and better connect local commerce with local education. Local business success is predicated on local talent. As a community, our first-priority talent pipeline should be our local students,” explained Lacy, a Ridgway High School alum himself. “We are grateful for Elizabeth’s talent and entrepreneurial spirit to launch this new initiative with us.”
Elizabeth Mueller (pictured above) is a Ridgway Secondary School 11th grade student who is active in performing and visual arts activities, and volunteering in school and around Ouray County. As ambassador, she provided the welcome letter in the 2018 Ridgway Visitors Guide, and attends chamber events as a youth representative.
“My involvement in the Chamber of Commerce has become one of the highest honors of my high school career,” Mueller said. “I have a great respect for the chamber for making an effort to involve the youth of our community through the ambassador program, marketing strategies and events like the volunteer fair. I’ve always felt that there is a bit of a disconnect from the inner workings of the adult community and the youth of our area. Reaching out to the middle and high school students of Ridgway is likely the best way to ensure community development and I am thrilled that the chamber recognizes that.”
The chamber launched a youth volunteer fair last fall, where area nonprofits met Ridgway Secondary School students to share information and sign up volunteers. The second fair was held on May 8 with 16 charitable organizations participating. The giveaways included Ridgway hats and a $75 donation, won by the Ridgway Railroad Museum.
Students at the fair, who signed up to volunteer with the chamber, are now working with Membership Coordinator Pamela Cannalte on a gardening project at the visitors center. Student volunteers also will be answering questions and giving out information about Ridgway at the visitors center, under Volunteer Coordinator Judy King’s supervision.
Other locals contributing to the chamber’s ongoing operation are accountant Jane Pulliam, of Middleton Accounting, and Nicole Green, of Sprout Design Studio. Green created new icons to identify Ridgway’s five tourism themes: Outdoor Adventure, Arts & Entertainment, History & Heritage, Health & Wellness, and Culinary Experiences. The icons will appear in all of the chamber’s online and print tourism promotion.
The Chamber Board also is representative of the five themes, with members from diverse industries in the town. Daniel Richards, of Colorado Boy Pub & Brewery, and Amanda Swain, of Ridgway Adventure Sports (opening Friday, May 25), were elected to the board at the April meeting, bringing the board to seven members — the first full slate in several years.
“The Chamber Board is thrilled with the additions of Amanda and Daniel. Daniel brings the important and previously lacking perspective of a culinary business leader to the board, and Amanda will bring the unique perspective of a business owner launching a new and significant venture in Ridgway. The two of them round out a full board with a diversity of perspectives and business sector representation,” Lacy said.