Montrose Chamber of Commerce will cease operations, effective May 24, after 130 years in Montrose, its board announced Monday “with great sadness.”
According to a news release, the decision came after a 90-minute meeting, during which board members weighed the consequences of the loss of revenue structure in 2013, when the Association of Commerce and Tourism dissolved.
Other factors included repeated staff changes — among these, four directors in four years — and priorities that made increasing chamber membership difficult, as well as difficulty in retaining staff and board members.
“As a result of these and other challenges, the financial models for the Montrose Chamber of Commerce made it impossible to carry on the services of the chamber without more staff, requiring either significant increase in members or an alternative revenue model,” the news release states.
Initial reaction to the news was mixed.
Montrose Mayor Dave Bowman said the announcement came as no surprise and he did not think it would result in fundamental changes to the way the community operates.
“It’s unfortunate that private businesses can’t afford their own organization, but at some point, I guess you have to make those decisions,” Bowman said, a few hours after he learned of the decision.
“I’m not sure the chamber has done much in the last several years, and I say this as someone who paid dues out of his own pocket as a business owner on Main Street.”
Bowman said he believed that the City of Montrose, Montrose County and Montrose County Economic Development Corp. are on top of ways to grow the community.
Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, frequently addressed the chamber’s subcommittee on governmental affairs.
“It’s been going 130 years. I think the chamber has always been a positive part of the community, and I am sad to see it go,” he said.
“The chamber has been out there for as long as I’ve been around — I’m not quite 130 years old — but it’s always been something that’s been very positive in the community.”
The chamber’s executive director Juliet Carr could not be reached for comment Monday night.
The chamber’s news released praised Carr’s dedication.
“The board of directors recognizes the extraordinary talents and efforts put forth by the current executive director, Juliet Carr,” it said.
Carr assumed leadership for the organization in 2018. The board recognized her efforts in the 2019 chamber gala; business awards; the reality fair for high school seniors; new membership software; her oversight of 970Studio (high school mentorship); updates; business information and promotions to members; Lunch and Learns; ribbon cuttings; open houses and legislative forecasts.
Most significantly, Carr organized and led the Montrose U Leadership Class, a nine-month program designed to build up new community leaders.
The intent is to continue 970Studio and Montrose U, although, according to the news release, “the organization of these programs will change as the chamber disbands.”
Montrose Chamber of Commerce’s situation is not unique, the release says, citing a nationwide decline in the chamber of commerce, fueled in part by business owners’ ability to network and train online.
“While the chamber offers many benefits unique to local businesses, members must use the benefits to see the results, but business owners are busier than ever,” the release states.
“The desire of the board of directors is that the mission and vision of the chamber of commerce live on in other community organizations, businesses and nonprofits.”
Montrose Chamber of Commerce members will be refunded any unused portion of their annual membership by the end of May, unless they pledge their dues to be donated to 970Studio or Montrose U.
Monthly members will not be billed again.
This report was first printed in the Montrose Daily Press.