Monte Vista Chamber expands marketing and cooperation efforts

MONTE VISTA- The Monte Vista Chamber of Commerce board of directors met for their monthly meeting Thursday, Sept. 24. The board reviewed current projects and tentative plans for upcoming events.

Chamber Manager Leo Wilde gave her monthly report following the approval of the financial reports, explaining the Crane Swoop Auction was very successful, raising $1,850 at auction  in addition to the over $6,000 in sponsorships. Chamber President Linda Burnett added “It was a very successful project,” and stated the committee is already meeting to make plans for next year. Chamber Board Member and School Board President Gary Wilkinson chimed in with some minor skepticism at the total costs and profitability of the project. A report included with the meeting packet showed, once supplies, expenses, artist fees and the Chamber Manager’s payroll expenses were accounted for, the entire project was only a loss of $129.20, although as Burnett and other board members pointed out, the crane display brought in a significant number of visitors and art enthusiasts, including a local documentarian, to view them.

James Nelson, the documentarian, is also looking to interview the artists who designed the cranes.

Board Member and Co-Owner of SLVoices Adam Lock reported on the Marketing Committee’s progress, noting Board Member and Manager of the Sandhill Inn and Suites Ken Hamko (who wasn’t in attendance due to illness), also the lead behind the Crane Swoop project, has been working with Lock and the other committee members to update and alter a marketing plan borrowed from Central City. The committee is also looking at Rio Grande County marketing funding and looking for other sources to continue their endeavors. So far, Hamko has updated the  Colorado Tourism Office listing for Monte Vista and they are trying to get local businesses to create free listings here. Hamko is also trying to design different routes for daytrips around the Valley as well. Wilkinson praised their efforts, stating “Ken, Adam and Kyle [Riggenbach] have put a lot of work into this.”

Lock also reported on another organization with some similar membership, the OptiMystics, a citizen’s action organization designed to promote and improve business in Monte Vista through positive actions. The group has borrowed their name from the San Luis Valley Tourism Council’s “Mystic San Luis Valley” theme. The OptiMystics recently launched their own website, , and are currently looking at how they can get funding for improving dusk to dawn lighting on downtown businesses, currently focusing on the 100 block of Adams Street. The group hopes to keep all of the labor and supplies sourced from local businesses as well.

Burnett reported the Chamber Board has been trying to schedule their Board Training Sessions, which will now take place over two evenings, Sept. 29 and Oct. 13 from 7-8:30p.m.Burnett also reported they have changed the code for the key the Chamber building as the code was out to too many people who had previously used the conference room, resulting in issues with finding doors left open and on one occasion finding someone staying in the building’s restroom. Burnett, Wilde, Wilkinson and Chamber Assistant Manager Jennifer Ruiz are now the only holders of the code and instead of giving that to users they will accommodate opening and closing the building for those organizations.

Burnett and SLV Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Director Jason Medina reported the Chamber has applied for a $15,000 grant from the Energize Colorado Fund to help compensate for their event income losses. Medina added that the program will be accepting new applications Oct. 5 for $15,000 grants and potential $20,000 loans, with priority given to rural businesses and nonprofits, as well as those owned or operated by veterans, women and/or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) applicants. The program was supposed to have three to four rounds of funding, but Medina expressed his doubt there will more than two, based on the number of applicants thus far. 12 businesses applied in Monte Vista for the first round of funding, Alamosa had 39 applicants.

Lock also reported on Hamko’s behalf on his efforts to revitalize the San Luis Valley Chamber organization. Lock stated they have had some interest and Zoom has proven to be a blessing in this instance because it takes away the hassle of having each host town select and arrange meeting locations. One of the organization’s discussions so far was possible discounted memberships for businesses to belong to all of the Valley chambers. The board discussed this but raised concerns there will be issues because some chambers, like Monte Vista, have a flat fee for dues (Monte Vista’s is $150) and the cheapest is $25 or $50 in Saguache, but others, like Alamosa and Creede have sliding options based on the size of the businesses or the benefits desired by the businesses, and some chambers will be more heavily impacted by providing discounts than others. Burnett pointed out Alamosa’s main income is membership, whereas Monte Vista and Saguache, for example, get more income from events. Rio Grande County Commissioner Gene Glover also added some Chambers are having issues with membership and involvement, like South Fork, and some are facing dwindling membership, like Del Norte, whereas others are fairly strong, like Monte Vista’s. The board suggested possibly looking into a percentage discount for businesses who want to belong to multiple chambers in the SLV organization.

Wilkinson reported Devon Davey, a teacher at the Byron Syring DELTA Center, is proposing a cooperative expansion to their Positive Behavior Incentive System (PBIS), a statewide program utilized by Monte Vista schools, implemented differently at each school and grade level, which provides rewards to students for exhibiting positive behaviors. Davey’s idea is for Chamber member businesses to look at possibly providing some rewards like gift cards or even accepting a school-specific currency, like the Pirate Bucks used by younger Monte Vista students, and receiving compensation for those later. Davey is currently trying to work with the Del Norte Chamber, who has implemented a similar program, to see how they do it and the school staff is researching if funding is available to back that program. Davey and possibly other PBIS coordinators from around the district will make a formal presentation to the Chamber once more research is done.

Burnett stated she has heard some criticism about the lack of elections for the Chamber Board and encouraged members to consider whether they wanted to move forward with an election process or implementing term limits in the bylaws. Chamber Board Member, community organizer and  SLV Solid Waste Authority Landfill Manager Jim Clare said the bylaws recently had to be modified because there wasn’t enough interest in the officer positions from active and consistent members to fulfill the requirements, “ We often come back to STP, same three people” for multiple boards, Clare added, concerned about burnout from interested parties. Wilde added she was involved with the organization because of Burnett, calling her “The Good Cop. He’s the Bad Cop,” she joked, pointing to Wilkinson, but added she would likely resign if Burnett left the board. Burnett encouraged board members to keep the possibility in mind and they would discuss it in more detail if the board was interested in having elections in November.

During the Event Reports, Burnett stated the Holiday Bazaar, held in conjunction with the Holiday Festival the first weekend of December, likely wouldn’t happen this year because the Valley Church of the Nazarene was not renting out the gym to outside organizations because of COVID-19 concerns.

Moonlight Madness, currently scheduled for Oct. 23, will likely be conducted, depending on the interest of businesses that will be polled by Ruiz and Conquistadores President Chelsea McNerney-Martinez.

Jessie May Olson Memorial Community Garden organizer Wanda Hawman expressed concern the bazaars are often the only times many local crafters, especially older people, are able to sell their wares. She asked if the Chamber could look into options for them to have a virtual event similar to the auction for the Swoop of the Cranes. Lock stated SLVoices had a similar virtual fair, and they could help look at options for crafters and artisans for the holidays. Hawman suggested keeping it on the same dates as the bazaar was already scheduled.