Employee retention a priority for Chamber

In other action

At its monthly meeting, the Craig Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors:

• Appointed Joe Byrd to fill the board seat vacated by Johnny Sherman and complete that term.

• Discussed buying letters and recommissioning the Welcome to Craig sign on the east of town.

• Rescheduled its October meeting to Oct. 18 because it was originally scheduled the same day as its customer service seminar.

— Craig Chamber of Commerce member businesses have told their organization's director, Christina Currie, they are worried about employee turnover due to being unable to compete with energy industry salaries.

Gene Bilodeau, Chamber Board of Directors president, directed the board to set forth goals to educate Chamber members on staff retention.

The job market is an employee's market, which creates a situation for businesses where they must compete for the best salaries and benefits. That is a struggle for small businesses without the capital to offer top-benefit jobs.

"We're trying to identify topics now," Currie said. "There are workshops that cover community issues, ways to boost morale. The businesses here can't possibly match the wages these energy companies can afford."

Businesses have a hard time filling their staff openings in part because of the wealth of jobs and dearth of experienced or qualified workers in Moffat County, Bilodeau said. Area unemployment is minimal, and businesses struggle to find employees who do not need to go through time- and money-consuming training periods.

"What unemployment there is left is people that are unemployable," Currie said. "They may not want to work, they may have a drug problem or a criminal background."

If someone wants to work in Moffat County, they can, Bilodeau said.

The Chamber plans to organize employee retention talks in the future, after its customer service seminar Oct. 11, which has 40 reservations by businesses so far.

Five businesses and organizations have agreed to sponsor the customer service talk, and the Chamber is still looking for one more.

At the end of the meeting, the board heard comments from the audience.

Cindy Looper, Chamber member and co-owner of Elk Run Inn, addressed the board concerning election practices and Chamber board bylaws.

"I do not feel that you have been following your bylaws accurately," Looper said.

Looper took issue with the board using its Chamber Connection, an insert in the Craig Daily Press, as a newsletter to announce election candidacies, saying it did not go out to all members since not all members read the newspaper.

Currie defended the Chamber's current newsletter distribution, telling Looper it receives "a much broader distribution" than it would independently.

Looper suggested e-mailed newsletters, but only two thirds of the members have email, Currie said.

Looper also said there was no way for members to write in candidates following the current process, if there are no elections and no ballots.

Bilodeau said members are informed of the opportunity to write in candidates in the August Chamber Connection insert, where the candidates are first announced to Chamber members.

Even though the Chamber board disagreed with Looper about how to follow the current bylaw language, board members contended that members would be given the voice in determining if changes are needed and what changes they want to approve.

"We're here to represent (the members)," Bilodeau said. "Upon hearing (these) comments and after thinking about it, I can see there is a grey area. I will go on record right now and say, I will guarantee you these (concerns) will be revisited."

The membership may change or approve bylaws at its annual meeting, which is most likely to be scheduled in February 2008.

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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