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East Valley Chamber closes doors

Group faced competition from newly created towns

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The East Valley Chamber of Commerce has gone out of business.

Facing steadily shrinking coffers and increasing competition from area chambers, the East Valley Chamber decided last month to close its doors, according to Cecilee Wilson, chairwoman of the chamber's board.

"The East Valley Chamber of Commerce used to serve a large unincorporated area and so was very useful to its members," Wilson said. "But with the formation of these small towns, like Cottonwood and Holladay, which have elected to form their own chambers, we've ended up competing with these other chambers.

"We serve a huge area, with no government support. So everything we had to do was based on what we could come up with in memberships and activities. The resources just weren't there."

The chamber served about 200 members in Sugar House, Brickyard, Foothill, Millcreek, Olympus, Holladay, Fort Union and Cottonwood. Membership dues, according to Wilson, were $150.

Another factor contributing to the chamber's demise was the resignation of its president and board, Wilson said.

"The president, who is also our chief executive, he elected to seek other employment," she said. "With the resources we had when he left, we were unable to acquire someone else to take his place."

Moreover, Wilson said, "For a month, I haven't had any kind of communication with the board. Basically what happened is that everybody resigned."

As of Wednesday, East Valley Chamber had not officially notified its members of the closure, Wilson said. But Salt Lake County spokesman Jim Braden said the county, in its conversations with chamber members and the board, learned of its fate and volunteered to help out, including information about the chamber's demise in a mailing sent to East Valley Chamber members.

"We included information about the East Valley Chamber in a letter inviting members of the various chambers to the Business Expo on Oct. 12 and 13 at South Towne (Exposition Center)," Braden said. "When we talked to East Valley Chamber, they said they were closing down and had no way to contact all their members. They had no money for postage."

Chamber members should know that other organizations, such as the Salt Lake Chamber, ChamberWest, Holladay Chamber of Commerce and Murray Chamber of Commerce, have agreed to welcome East Valley members — accepting their East Valley memberships until they expire. Then, Wilson said, "they don't have to pay a start-up fee and can continue their membership in one of those other chambers."

Also, Wilson said that the group's annual "Turkey Trot," held the Saturday before Thanksgiving, is still scheduled for this year, though likely it will be sponsored by a Sugar House merchants' group.

Lane Beattie, president of the Salt Lake Chamber, said that group first heard that the East Valley Chamber was facing difficulties "some time ago." Now Beattie said the Salt Lake Chamber is ready to help the East Valley members any way it can. But he said the Salt Lake Chamber has no desire to derail its smaller counterparts.

"We're sorry for the people who don't have the service they've had for so long," Beattie said. "It's not an uncommon situation, unfortunate as it may be. We actually encourage people to belong to their local chamber. We want to partner with them. Our intention is not to go out and swallow up every other chamber."

However, Beattie added, "We're anxious to do what we can to pick up where they (the East Valley Chamber) left off, and see if there's something we can do. We are more than willing to do what we can to help."

Brent Albers, general manager of Fastsigns in Sugar House, said he was unaware that the East Valley chamber had closed or that his store was a member of that particular organization.

"We are a member of almost all the chambers," Albers said. "We have five stores in Utah, so probably five chambers."

When asked how the East Valley Chamber's closure would affect his store, Albers replied, "We're more involved at the Salt Lake Chamber."

E-mail: jnii@desnews.com