The petite but familiar building on the corner of Highways 89A and 260 in Cottonwood that housed the Chamber of Commerce since the mid-1980s now stands empty. The Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce recently moved to a new, larger location just blocks away. The Chamber was bursting at the seams even with a backyard shed and off-site storage space. Old newspapers uncovered while packing up the storage facilities proved that the move was long overdue.
“We’ve found newspaper articles from 25 years ago that said that the Chamber had already outgrown its location back then,” laughed Chamber President and CEO Christian Oliva del Rio. The Chamber move was prompted after a number of developers showed interest in buying the property at the busy intersection. “We were approached by several developers who wanted to purchase the property, which is under contract now,” said Oliva del Rio. The buyer has not disclosed its client, but the tenant is expected to be a restaurant or retailer.
The chamber completed its staged move on Friday, July 7 to a modern 2,500-square-foot office at 849 Cove Parkway. The offices house the Arizona Office of Tourism Official Local Area Visitor Center, Chamber administration, a boardroom for Chamber and community meetings and plenty of storage closets.
“We just had our first board meeting here and it worked very well this morning,” touted the Chamber executive, pointing to the 65-inch presentation screen and phone conferencing system in the space that seats 15-18 people. The previous facility had no board room. “It was very difficult to function in the old location if we had more than six visitors in there at one time,” added Oliva del Rio, who became president and CEO last year after serving as the Cottonwood Chamber director of operations.
Today, the Chamber has plenty of space for visitors and wall displays for tourism information for Cottonwood, the Verde Valley and destinations throughout the state. There are also fresh wall displays for Chamber members to exhibit business cards and rack cards. In addition to working with the Arizona Office of Tourism, the Chamber is also contracted with the City of Cottonwood and receives money from the bed tax as a DMO, or destination marketing organization. The visitor center is staffed with 20 volunteers. “We could not function without them,” said Oliva del Rio, whose team includes Director of Tourism Michelle Masters and Executive Assistant Karen Pfeifer.
“We definitely have seen growth in the area,” said Oliva del Rio. Ten years ago, when he started working for the Chamber, there were 300 members. Now, the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce has more than 550 members. “We have grown significantly in that time. I am hoping that I can continue that forward. In the last year since I’ve become president, we moved and [contracted to sell] the property. We have a very forward-thinking board to guide us.”
“The wine industry has taken off in the past years. We promote the Verde Valley Wine Trail. Tourism is a big part of what we do, and I would like the Chamber to focus on economic development and workforce development. Some businesses don’t see the relationship between tourism and economic development. Tourism trickles down to all the businesses that are related to, and not related to tourism,” he explained.
The Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce is involved with economic development in the region. Oliva del Rio serves on the board of the Cottonwood Economic Development Council and the Chamber further partners with that entity by sharing 15 percent of the bed tax with the council. The chamber also teams up with the Verde Valley Economic Organization (VVREO), which works across area municipalities and has a microloan program for local businesses. Entrepreneurs and small business owners looking to start, relocate or expand an existing business in the Verde Valley are invited to take advantage of the VVREO Revolving Loan Program.
The Chamber also partners with the Yavapai College Regional Economic Development Center (YCREDC) for workforce development. “We need a qualified workforce and we need to keep them here,” said Oliva del Rio. “We need to understand businesses’ worker needs, and then train individuals to meet the workforce needs.”
The new location ensures that the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce can best continue its mission to stimulate economic growth by providing membership benefits through marketing and promotions, information and referrals, education, and government relations and advocacy. QCBN
By Stacey Wittig, QCBN
Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce
849 Cove Parkway, Suite B and C, Cottonwood