Saturday, 25 May 2024

Lakeport Chamber looks at how to deal with economic crunch

LAKEPORT – As a voice for local businesses, the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce remains focused on the issues facing the area’s work places despite economic challenges of its own.

The chamber recently canceled a popular annual event because “people were not in a position to buy tickets.” In addition, the chamber is operating on a reduced budget, which resulted in the loss of one part-time job, according to Melissa Fulton, Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer.

Members and guests were supposed to be enjoying a night of dinner and dancing Jan. 31 at “Hawaii 5000,” the Chamber’s fundraising soiree.

However, individuals apparently couldn’t afford the $145 per couple price tag and chamber officials decided it “wasn’t something that would work this year,” Fulton said Thursday.

Cancellation of the event and the potential for additional economic impacts to chamber functions will be evaluated during an upcoming retreat for the chamber’s board of directors, Fulton noted.

A primary focus of the retreat is the issue of businesses having a hard time in this economy, she stressed.

“That is our challenge, our focus,” she said, “to identify tools to help business members stay in business and grow. We see it as a priority.”

During the retreat, the board will be looking at ways to “provide (businesses) with tools to stay productive and stay in a positive position,” Fulton added.

In addition, the chamber plans to conduct a member survey to identify what the membership would like to see the chamber do, she said.

No longer hired by the city of Lakeport to be the city’s “marketing arm,” the chamber is feeling the pinch of the current economic climate. It is familiar with problems facing the businesses, said Fulton.

“I’ve had to let a part-time person go (from the chamber office),” she noted.

Explaining some of the history, Fulton stated that since about 1997 the city had hired the chamber to do marketing for Lakeport. The city paid a flat sum from the city’s general fund each year.

Facing financial challenges of its own, the city of Lakeport decided last June that it could no longer retain the services of the chamber. That meant a 20-percent budget reduction, according to the long-time chief executive officer.

The city determined marketing was one expense it could not afford at this time, interim City Manager Kevin Burke confirmed Monday when asked about the decision made for this fiscal year.

Whether or not the chamber is hired to do the marketing in the future is “up to the City Council,” said Burke. However, “marketing is not a budgeted expense” for now.

While the council continues to look at other ways to fund promotional activities, the city’s priorities are meeting payroll for staff and “bare bones operating expenses,” said Burke.

Despite the fact that funds are not available from the city, the Lakeport Chamber’s chief executive officer is optimistic that traditional events such as the Fourth of July fireworks and celebration in Lakeport will not be affected by the hardships felt locally.

A meeting of chamber officials, city staff and community club representatives is scheduled for Tuesday to look at ways to assure that the annual fireworks over Clear Lake will take place.

“We are going to be talking about how this community can make it happen,” stated Fulton, noting she has no doubt that the fireworks display will occur as planned.

In the meantime, the chamber continues to offer workshops and programs to benefit businesspeople.

Businesses are still joining the chamber even though Fulton does not have a memberships salesperson on staff.

“Other members strongly urge them to join,” Fulton said.

Membership amounts depend on the number of employees in the business or company, and a payment schedule can be arranged.

Information and membership forms are available on the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce Web site,

Sue Stout is a business correspondent for Lake County News.


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