Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Mark Dykes

Chamber discusses multi-entity collaboration


March 21, 2019

During the Thermopolis-Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce meeting on March 14, much of the discussion focused on an idea that has been circulating around town the past couple months — a collaboration between the chamber, the Hot Springs County Travel and Tourism, the Hot Springs Economic Development Company (EDC) and Thermopolis Main Street.

Phillip Scheel met with Greg Willson earlier in the week to discuss the possibility of bringing multiple entities under a larger board so services are not duplicated and ideas are not miscommunicated. It was noted that if all four were not under a larger board, perhaps there could be two groups of two or a group of two with the others remaining separate.

Speaking of the benefits of such collaboration, Willson said Thermopolis Main Street could become a full-time Main Street member with a paid staff. Currently the organization is an affiliate and all of its staff members are volunteers. Willson further added Main Street is a key component because it is a 501(c)(3) and is grantable and can bring in money, whereas the chamber and EDC are 501(c)(6), membership-based not for profits.

“There’s a lot of moving parts here,” Willson said of the possible collaboration. There are four separate boards that would first have to think it was a good idea, then the structure of an overarching board would have to be set up in such a way to provide service for all the entities.

Willson said the recommendation would be to set up a chart as a group between now and the fall, listing the pros and cons of the collaboration to determine if it brings efficiency and value to members, increase ability to get funding, streamline operations and make the chamber a hub of communication. This research would be specifically for the chamber, though it’s hoped the other entities will do their own similar research.

Scheel said the idea of collaboration began as a small conversation with him, Travel and Tourism Director Amanda Moeller and Chamber Executive Director Meri Ann Rush, and it was pointed out at the meeting that there are some communities in the state putting entities together and others breaking them apart. The chamber and Travel and Tourism were once joined but separated six years ago.

Scheel said other communities could be utilized — both those that are collaborating and those that are separating — to provide information to the local boards.

Willson stressed the people bringing the idea of a collaboration forward have not decided one way or the other on the matter, but there needs to be further information and discussion before any plans are made.

Rush said it it’s important to have an outsider who doesn’t have “any skin in the game” to determine if and how the collaboration could happen.

Also during the meeting, the board approved the strategic plan. According to document, the chamber is organized for acting as a community resource, promoting economic growth and tourism.

The chamber exists to support the community as an active, positive and innovative force. As a representative of its membership and community, it’s committed to act with responsibility and integrity, through collaboration by partnership between members, organizations and government entities, sustainability through good stewardship, embracing creative diversity and resources, and communicating exceptional qualities of the county to residents and visitors.

Strategies for the chamber include retention and expansion of membership by providing value and resources to existing members and showcasing benefits to attract new members, organization of staff, board and volunteers to serve the chamber mission and practicing good stewardship.


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