Friday, March 4, 2011

Chamber members support new leader

Despite confidence, members concerned about marketing


By TREVON MILLIARD
Express Staff Writer

Greg Randolph speaks for the first time since taking the reins of the Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce and visitor center on Feb. 25. Randolph, who’s also the public relations manager for the chamber’s controlling group, the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, spoke to about 100 chamber members at Whiskey Jacques’ on Tuesday.

Whistling and applause were the response to statements made by Greg Randolph, new leader of the reborn Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce, during his first appearance before members Tuesday at Whiskey Jacques' saloon in Ketchum.

He told the 100 members—representing many of the northern valley's businesses—in attendance of renovations planned for the visitor center on Sun Valley Road, and that he's going to use his contacts accrued as Smith Optics public relations manager to make Sun Valley stand out from other resort towns.

"There's a lot of noise out there," said Randolph, somewhat formally, but his inner skier boiled to the surface as the excitement in his voice rose. "We're going to kill it for you guys. This is awesome."

The night's first spontaneous outburst of whistling and applause then erupted from the crowd.

That's not to say trepidation hasn't accompanied the transition. The chamber has lost 53 business members in the past year amid a transition from the chamber doing all marketing of the area to a new organization, Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, controlling both marketing and the chamber. The chamber has 400 members.

Jake Peters, president of the marketing alliance board, said lost memberships was to be expected during such a shift in which the chamber went from eight full-time employees to zero and now three.

"Now, we're ramping this back up," he said, adding that all the chambers' services aren't yet in place, such as an event coordinator.

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Peters said focus was first placed on the alliance's marketing arm, not the chamber/business-services arm.

"This organization is owned by you," he said, adding the disclaimer that $800,000 of the alliance's approximate $1 million budget comes from Sun Valley and Ketchum city governments.

These cities wanted to be assured of the marketing side of things before investing, which they have done. Since then, marketing efforts have begun. Peters said staff of the marketing firm Eleven Inc. arrived Tuesday to begin shooting the first videos to be used as this year's main marketing tactic: highlighting Sun Valley's authenticity as America's first ski resort. A website, discover.sunvalley.com, will be created within the resort's pre-existing, sunvalley.com, site to show all these videos.

This tight relationship with Sun Valley Co.—whose general manager, Tim Silva, is one of the alliance's five board members—is the root of doubts expressed on Tuesday. The alliance hired Eleven Inc. as its marketing firm after Sun Valley Co. had done so.

Susanne Conner, manager of Lost River Outfitters in Ketchum, said she's worried this "conflict of interest" might earn Sun Valley Co. preferential treatment, such as its outfitters being featured in the videos.

"This is probably a concern to everyone," Peters replied. "We'll obviously do things to benefit Sun Valley Co."

That's because the company is contributing a $500,000 match. However, he said, a fly-fishing video wouldn't be outfitter-specific but about fly fishing in general for the area.

Doug Brown, executive director of the Wood River Economic Partnership, advised fellow members to have "patience" with the alliance and not assume the worst.

"These guys took a huge risk for change, and they did it for us," he said.

Trevon Milliard: tmilliard@mtexpress.com




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