By Leigh Armstrong
Mayor Andrew Cremata is taking steps to talk with the chamber of commerce to make sure it remains a viable resource for businesses in town. He hopes
to meet with chamber staff in December to talk about ideas for ensuring the economic viability of the organization.
While the chamber is funded until next year, Cremata said he is uncertain whether it will receive the same $40,000 from the municipality in the 2020-2021 budget year. In addition to municipal support, the chamber raises money from dues and events.
In a letter to the chamber board and staff, the mayor said the future of the chamber is at risk due to lack of fundraising and support, and suggested ideas to assist the organization in gathering support.
“I’m hopeful the future of the chamber can be preserved through some of the creative methods for fundraising we discussed at our meeting,” Cremata said in the Aug. 5 letter.
Proposals to raise money and interest include: a fall membership event, routine social media posts, member advertising, reviewing the website, a member’s representative survey and greater participation at local events.
Of these, Cremata suggested reaching out to small businesses might be a potential source of new membership for the chamber.
“I don’t know of any current outreach to these business owners and many of them are well established,” he said.
The chamber currently has just over 100 business members, while nearly 400 businesses are licensed by the state in Skagway.
The mayor said he has not received any updated progress reports from the chamber.
In September, a new group called the Skagway Business Association formed around complaints that business in town was down this summer. In their discussions, Kristine Harder owner of Buckshot & Bobbypins and the force behind starting the SBA, complained about the inactivity of the chamber.
Cremata and Assemblymember Orion Hanson attended the group’s September meetings and said that the creation of the SBA showed that the chamber was performing as intended.
Typically, a chamber of commerce will act as a resource for local businesses to grow and expand, while networking with other local businesses through events. For example, the Haines Chamber of Commerce holds monthly first Friday events to encourage residents to visit chamber members’ businesses. The Haines chamber also holds luncheons, seminars and meetings to help businesses stay up to date.
While Skagway’s chamber does a spring and fall shopping event, there’s no monthly events and no seminars or meetings currently planned, according to the chamber’s newsletter, website or social media.
The chamber office is currently closed as Blaine Mero, the administrator, is out of town for medical reasons until Oct. 29. The Skagway News was unable to contact chamber president Jackie Schaefer.