In the community

February meeting slated to determine future of Vale chamber

Cathy Zacharias (right) works with local resident Amy Heward at her business, ExZacht Sewing & Alterations, Friday. Zacharias, along with Vale Mayor Tom Vialpando, will sponsor a meeting Feb. 16, regarding reviving the Vale Chamber of Commerce. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

VALE – Mayor Tom Vialpando and local business owner Cathy Zacharias want to hear from local residents and merchants regarding the future of the Vale Chamber of Commerce at a special meeting next month.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16, at Zacharias’ business, ExZacht Sewing & Alterations, 289 A St. W.

Zacharias said her role is simply to organize the meeting and listen, and that she hopes “to see the chamber doing something in the future.”

“I’d love to have the chamber board where we all are working together,” said Zacharias.

During the past few years the chamber has existed in fits and starts. The Covid pandemic effectively put the organization into a holding pattern in 2020.

Kate Humphrey, owner of Vale Bookkeeping Services, along with Kim Speelman, who works for Field-Waldo Insurance Agencies Inc. in Ontario, spearheaded the return of the chamber in an abbreviated form in late 2020.

Because of the pandemic, the chamber didn’t collect dues from members through 2021 and remained an ad hoc organization. The chamber sponsored only a few events, such as the Vale 4th of July Rodeo Parade.

Vialpando said it is time to see if area business owners are willing to participate in a more vibrant chamber or to simply let the organization dissolve.

Vialpando said the chamber is an important part of any city to attract businesses. Vialpando said when he meets with potential business owners looking at Vale, they typically ask him the same question.

“They ask, ‘do you have a chamber and how strong is it?’” said Vialpando.

“I hope we can get some renewed interest from area businesses so we can be in this thing together and help each other out,” said Vialpando.

He said the chamber’s goals are different from those of the Vale Community Coalition, another local civic organization.

“They are two separate missions. The coalition is basically for projects. The chamber is strictly composed of business owners,” said Vialpando.

Humphrey stepped away from the chamber in December.

“That is another reason to have this meeting, to get organized. Right now, the chamber has no leaders. This meeting will see if folks still want to move forward,” said Vialpando.

If there is no interest, he said, the city “can look at other ways to promote our businesses.”

Former chamber president Dwight Keller said he plans to attend the meeting.

A chamber, he said, is “a brilliant idea that needs to be done.”

“But I am not sure how you do it. We just need to figure out how to do it and make it work,” said Keller.

Zacharias, who opened her business seven years ago, said she wants to see Vale business owners work together and a viable chamber is a good way to accomplish that goal.

“I’d like to see what people want to do. Those who want to participate, great, let’s do something. I’d like to be successful,” she said.

Zacharias said she hopes a solid system of networking between businesses can be created.

“Let’s come up with a common direction,” she said.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

Previous coverage:

Vale chamber president proposes new focus on business members

New Vale chamber president ready to embrace change

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