In Sutherlin, our chamber of commerce and our visitor center have a unique and successful partnership. The mission of the Sutherlin Area Chamber of Commerce is to promote, protect, enhance and expand both the economic vitality and the quality of life in our unique community. The mission of our Visitor Center is to attract visitors for the purpose of enhancing the local economy and help existing and future residents find activities, businesses and resources in our community.
The visitor center functions as a destination management organization. With that in mind, we feel strongly about bringing attention to all the opportunities for people to enjoy in and around our town. We want to focus on recreational opportunities such as Cooper Creek Reservoir, Fords Pond and Central Park, just to name a few. We also are excited to highlight the businesses and organizations that provide a wide variety of services and goods in our small town.
Our community is focused on service and coming together. These avenues for engagement enhance the livability of our community. This increases the attractiveness of wanting to live in Sutherlin which, in turn, increases pride in our city. If the community has a high livability factor and growing population, this helps local businesses by increasing their customer base and in turn helps their business to thrive.
It is because of these missions and goals that our chamber and our visitor center are known in the community as the first place to call when you want to know what’s going on. We have the scoop on community events and we do our best to get the information out to the public. Our services also encompass sharing resources with travelers, new residents, senior citizens, youth and visitors. At the visitor center, we keep an up-to-date directory of all businesses in the Sutherlin area, not just chamber of commerce members.
So, if the visitor center has information on all businesses in the area, then some might wonder what is the advantage of a business becoming a chamber member? The answer is simple. Chamber member businesses see the big picture for Sutherlin. The overall mission of a chamber of commerce is to advocate for all businesses in a community and to create an environment where businesses can thrive and be successful. Being a part of the Oregon Chamber of Commerce network, we work closely with our city, county and state governments to inform our elected and appointed officials as to what is happening in the business community and how their decisions impact businesses.
Chamber of commerce members are also joining an organization of like-minded entrepreneurs who have many of the same values and goals. One of the biggest advantages of being part of this entrepreneur network is to share resources that help business function and thrive. Before COVID-19, much of our time at the chamber was focused on growing businesses, markets and recruiting new businesses to Sutherlin. When our economy nearly shut down a year ago, our chamber of commerce shifted gears in a big way. We spent most of our efforts in helping businesses stay open and to not throw in the towel. We did our best at sharing information and resources, such as grants and loans made available to businesses. We also initiated a campaign to help encourage people to shop locally and to spend their money at local small businesses that were struggling.
Now that COVID-19 restrictions are loosening, we are eager to help Sutherlin businesses and residents return back to life as normal, or close to it. We are excited that we are finally able to meet with small groups in person again. Just this week, nearly 20 of our chamber business owners came together to network at our monthly chamber breakfast. We had a special guest from CCD Business Development Corp. (ccdbusiness.org) to share information about the different grants and funding that was still available to help businesses rebuild after this devastating year.
Our Sutherlin Area Chamber of Commerce has consistently had a close relationship with our Small Business Development Center (umpqua.edu/sbdc) who provides business guidance and education to business owners, and a representative is available at each monthly meeting. We hope to keep meeting the second Wednesday each month for our breakfast, with face-to-face networking meetings and to increase monthly attendance, returning to the days when we had 40+ attendees.
When you see the Sutherlin Area Chamber of Commerce logo on the door of a local business then you know that the business cares about our community and is focused on community development and enrichment. Seeing that sticker is an indication that the business has likely donated to your local school or organizations because they recognize the significance of a strong community.
Take note the next time you attend a Sutherlin community event of the sponsors listed in that program or poster. Those are the businesses that you want to support because you know they see the big picture and care about their customers and community.
Tracy Martz is the executive director of the Sutherlin Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center