Print Chamber of commerce celebrates three decades
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 02 February 2011 00:00

Before there was an incorporated Camp Verde, there was a Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce.

More than 30 years ago, most local businesses in the lower Verde Valley were members of the Verde Valley Chamber of Commerce, based out of Cottonwood.

Networking happens: Guests at the Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce mixer, held at the visitor center Thursday, Jan. 27, mingle while celebrating the local business organization’s 30th anniversary.Some of those local businesspeople felt like they needed an organization to better serve their interests. That’s why, on Jan. 28, 1981, in part with the leadership of locals like Red Finch, the Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce incorporated as its own entity.

Those early leaders of the chamber faced opposition from some in the Verde Valley Chamber, according to reports, but the Camp Verde group soldiered on.

Today, the Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce numbers 175 members as it celebrates three decades.

For the first few years, the chamber was the closest thing to a local government the community had. While it was a central point for information, the early chamber still had to fight the rumor mill. In fact, the first mention of the new chamber in The Camp Verde Journal was a short blurb assuring residents the new organization wasn’t part of some larger conspiracy to bring incorporation to the community.

While incorporation eventually happened anyway, the chamber has kept to its job of promoting businesses in Camp Verde. Today, it operates an office out of the local visitor center on Main Street. At one time, the chamber actually operated out of the offices of The Journal, back when Editor Jerry Newton served as chamber president.

Times have changed, but the chamber’s mission hasn’t.

“Our goal is to create a strong local economy,” Chamber Director Tracie Schimikowsky said. “Our job is promoting the community while providing a network that represents the interests of businesses while working with government.”

Schimikowsky said the chamber also serves as a hub of information for the community, citing as an example informative events the chamber sometimes cohosts with the League of Women Voters, among other information the chamber works to share with the community.

Schimikowsky said even though the chamber continues to thrive, it takes active participation from its members to make the chamber successful.

“It’s their chamber …. We’re going strong,” Schimikowsky said. “We have a board and membership that are very dynamic.”
The chamber has been trying to come up with ideas to better serve the community, including the recent creation of “quick response teams,” subgroups within the chamber that are much more flexible and able to respond to issues that affect the local business community when and where they happen.

Chamber President Dave Freeman said it’s all part of the organization’s effort to provide more services to the business community.

“We want to focus on helping to develop businesses,” Freeman said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a mom and pop in the garage or a larger-size business.”

Aside from the quick response teams, Freeman said the chamber recently started hosting monthly workshops to help local businesses learn what it takes to grow and develop, something he said was a big step forward in services offered by the chamber.

“We’ve had our ups and downs over the years,” Freeman said. “This year, we’re stronger …. We’re very motivated, and we’re going to find ways to be even more supportive of local business.”