Vale Chamber president proposes new focus on business members

Jessica Kulm wants the changes to build a stronger bridge to local businesses. (Enterprise file photo)

VALE – The Vale Chamber of Commerce plans to drop its monthly luncheon, craft a new business initiative, revamp its website and no longer offer food vendors at the annual Oregon Trail Days. 

Jessica Kulm, new chamber president, outlined the changes last week during an interview with the Enterprise, delivering on her promise when she stepped into the slot in February to breathe new life into the local organization.

One change – the resignation of chamber director Grace Schuler – occurred two weeks ago, said Kulm. 

Kulm also said the chamber recently put the finishing touches on a new logo.

“Change for me is exciting because it means growth,” said Kulm.

Kulm said the changes trace their genesis to a chamber meeting in February. 

“We are focusing on that feedback and information they gave us,” said Kulm. “We’d heard before that meeting that a lot of members wanted to pull away. We are trying to listen to businesses.”

Kulm said the chamber wants to explore a partnership with the Vale Mural Society to sponsor tours of the city’s unique art-splashed on buildings. Another goal, she said, is to schedule the battle of the bands event the same day as the street dance during the week of the Vale Rodeo.

Cutting the food vendors from Oregon Trail Days is an attempt to push people to buy food and drinks from downtown businesses during the Fourth of July festivities. Oregon Trail Days is traditionally held the weekend of the rodeo at Vale’s Wadleigh Park near the rodeo grounds.

As part of the chamber’s “buy local, shop local” program, Kulm said local businesses can partner with the chamber in a year-long agenda based on a discount card. A local business would offer special discounts throughout the year for members and residents who purchase the card. The card would be sold through the chamber and costs $20.

“We will place signs in businesses that participate,” said Kulm. 

Kulm said merchants she talked to about the program are “are really excited.” 

Kulm said the decision to discontinue the monthly chamber luncheon was also pushed by downtown merchants.

“Business members said they all usually work through lunch. Now, if someone has a person that they want to bring in we can always create an event. We’d rather set up an event that is successful and well-attended,” said Kulm.

The annual chamber banquet, which is usually in the spring, is now set for June 22, said Kulm.

“We really tried hard not to interfere with other banquets,” said Kulm.

Kulm said there are no plans to hire a new staffer.

“Board members are all divvying up the chamber work,” said Kulm.

The website work is continuing, said Kulm, with an emphasis of beefing up the chamber calendar.

“We have been working hard on revamping it. We want it (the web site) to become a networking resource for the community,” said Kulm.

The chamber is also without an office in Vale, said Kulm. She said, at least for now, the chamber will utilize a “virtual” office. 

Kulm said the lack of an actual walk-in office for the chamber doesn’t carry the same type of potential handicaps it did 20 years ago. The advent of social media and widespread online access makes the virtual office doable, she said.

Kulm said the chamber wants to create a stronger bridge with local businesses. 

“The businesses wanted to feel more support from the chamber. Some felt the actions of the chamber were really not benefiting businesses,” said Kulm.

Kulm said she is confident the new changes will pay off.

“We are really trying to stay positive and promote growth. At same time we are trying to keep in mind tradition and history and approach everything proactively,” said Kulm.

The chamber consists of about 50 members, said Kulm.

Along with Kulm, Alicia McBride, Vale School District superintendent is the chamber vice president, while Malinda Castleberry, owner of Mal’s Diner, is the secretary. Kate Humphrey, owner of Vale Bookkeeping, is the chamber treasurer. Adam Tolman, owner of Malheur Drug, and Vale resident Lily Manzo Vazquez are also on the chamber board. Kulm works as a food safety manager for Standage Farms and also owns Bliss Yoga Studio in Vale.

 Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

For the latest news, follow the Enterprise on Facebook and Twitter.

TRY A FREE SAMPLE – You can see for yourself the kind of local news reporting produced by the Malheur Enterprise with a news team focused exclusively on news that’s important to you. You can read us for free for 30 days. Signing up is easy and then you have 24/7 access to our reports. Sign up HERE. Or you can support some of the nation’s best journalism by subscribing to our digital news service for $5 a month, easy and automatic. Subscribe HERE.