By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor
BIG SKY – The days of change continue at the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce.
On Aug. 21 the group held its second board meeting in its new building at the corner of Highway 191 and Lone Mountain Trail. This was the first time the new executive director, Kitty Clemens, was in attendance.
It was also the last meeting for Robin Brower-McBride, who’s been the Chamber’s program and membership director for nearly two years.
“Robin has been a huge asset to the Chamber and the community,” said Chamber president David O’Connor. “I can’t thank her enough for helping to get us through this transitional year.”
Clemens officially started work on Aug. 16, and said a lot of her director’s report for the meeting was housekeeping items. More organized planning prior to the meetings, she said, would help the board move through future meetings more quickly. She also discussed the sign for the new Visitors’ Center.
“That was something I walked into when I got here in July, and we are still waiting for the county to give us a permit,” Clemens said. The board, wanting to put up a sign quickly, had approved and paid for a design from Vega Creations already; but Clemens found that SCS Wraps, a new Chamber member, could do the entire process—from redesign to installation—for a third the cost.
Other personnel changes include hiring Danielle Chamberlain, a longtime Big Sky local, as the new Visitor Information Center manager. Chamberlain formerly worked as distribution director for Outlaw Partners (publisher of the Weekly). She will start Sept. 1, helping with weekend coverage and creating a volunteer staffing plan at the VIC.
In his financial report, Chamber Secretary/Treasurer John Richardson said the Chamber is “in a pretty good position right now, from a cash basis.”
Country Fair made a significant profit for the first time ever, which was largely due to a $10,000 grant from the Rapier Foundation. He noted that Chamber bookkeeper Wanda McCarthy suggested if the fair is something the Chamber wants to continue, it’ll need to come up with additional funding sources.
“It’s a lot of work for a break-even, from a financial standpoint,” Richardson said.
Board member Victor DeLeo gave kudos to Brower-McBride for her work organizing the fair and retaining its sponsors.
Brower-McBride said partnering with local and regional nonprofits was beneficial to everyone involved. It was a “nice handshake to have with Bozeman,” she said, adding that the West Yellowstone Chamber has since sent a ‘thank you’, even though they weren’t involved in an official partnership.
The fair also had nearly $3,000 in sponsorship and in-kind donations from businesses including the Blue Moon Bakery, Creighton Block Gallery, Gallatin River Gallery, Lone Peak Brewery, the Corral, Half Moon Saloon and Pretty Paws, Brower-McBride said after the meeting.
The Chamber’s website is set for a revamp, and the board discussed the process: Its request for proposals will stay open until Aug. 27, and the target to award that $15,000 contract is Oct. 1. The new site, Brower-McBride later said, will have a reconfigured landing page where viewers can choose to see visitor or business information. Most of the content will remain the same.
The board also set Sept. 26 as the tentative date for a joint marketing meeting between the Chamber, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Biggest Skiing in America Committee.
“Sometimes the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing,” O’Connor said. By collaborating more, these three groups can become “more efficient on how we spend our money and time.”
On a similar subject, Ryan Hamilton, during public comment earlier in the meeting, brought up the Big Sky Resort Tax Board Aug. 8 and 9 planning session.
“It was a public forum about the future of Big Sky,” Hamilton recalled. “Where do we want to be in 20 years? How do we get there? I’d like to see collaboration with the resort tax board. I think it could be good for the entire community for the chamber board to be there as a leadership entity… They’re doing essentially what a city commission would do—they hold the money.”
Chamber brings FAM trips to Big Sky
In a publicity move to get national and regional travel writers interested in Big Sky, the Chamber is hosting a FAM (familiarization) trip with Ken Ellens, a nationally known travel, marketing and public relations writer, Sept. 5 – 9. Ellens and the Chamber will invite six to 10 other journalists on the trip.
“The goal is to get them through Yellowstone, and from [Gallatin] Canyon, all the way to Moonlight, and to points in between,” O’Connor said. “We want to show them the Town Center and the new movie theatre. [A visit to] the Yellowstone Club could also be a hook in getting people here.”
Another FAM trip is coming to Big Sky on Sept. 8, this time a group of at least 44 European tourists on a Rocky Mountain International motor coach tour. The Chamber worked with the Montana Office of Tourism organizing this trip.
Chamber golf tournament
As of press time, 12 teams were already registered for the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament. The tournament can include more than 30 teams and it sells out every year. One change this year is there will only be one mulligan allowed per player.