Chamber membership fluctuates with economy

Perceived or real, economic issues are affecting Craig Chamber of Commerce membership.

However, the group is not lacking members. While 31 local businesses dropped their Chamber membership in 2008, 49 businesses joined.

At the end of the year, the Chamber lost 8 percent of the members it had in January 2008, but its membership grew by 5 percent overall.

Of the 31 dropped businesses, 12 not only left the Chamber, but went out of business.

Chamber Executive Director Christina Currie said most of those were in the retail sector, but she added that many of them were because owners made a personal decision to leave or because the businesses weren't that strong to begin with.

Gauging by issues she sees with other Chambers across the country, Currie added it doesn't look like Moffat County is in such a bad spot.

"I think on a national scale, Chambers are really concerned about their retention rates and new members going into 2009," Currie said. "And we, as a board, had a discussion about our budget and whether we should anticipate problems with revenue, but we didn't change anything.

"I'm not really concerned about here, because our businesses represent to us they're doing really well."

Currie said she thinks the local retail industry will continue to do well, but if a recession hits Moffat County, that would be the first industry to feel the effects.

Along with the dropped businesses, eight local companies are three months late in paying their Chamber dues.

One of them is Boulder-based Laurus Associates, which had planned to develop land around the Wal-Mart SuperCenter, but since has pulled out and put the land up for sale.

"They decided they don't want to do business here," Currie said.

Several other businesses late in their payments are real estate agencies.

"The real estate market has just really slowed down," Currie said. "Part of that is the time of year, because it's always slower in winter months, but it's just really hard to be in that business right now."

People can get loans, and houses are available, she said, but most people don't seem willing to make such a large investment at this time.

Still, Currie said the local housing market is not in terrible shape.

"I think some of our newer realtors haven't seen this kind of downturn before," she said. "What the experienced realtors are saying is that prices outpaced our values recently. Our market was overpriced and now it's stabilizing."

Concern is still there, though, Currie said, and the Chamber needs to stay relevant.

"What the economy is going to do to the Chamber is make us really look at out benefits," she said. "With the economy changing : do we need to change to meet the needs of our members?"

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