For the last two and a half years, the Caribou Area Chamber of Commerce has been a department of the city, but starting January 1st, that’s going to change, when it becomes its own separate entity.
Laurie Colton, President of the Chamber Board of Directors says, “the ultimate idea is to become a little more independent, allow us to have our own separate voice in the community, not only with our members but also to the city directly.”
City councilors approved this decision at the end of last month. Colton says the board started discussions in late October about separating from the city. They feel they’re at a point where they can be separate and it will help them be a better advocate for their members, the business community, and the city itself.
“It made it a little awkward when it came to fighting for issues that affected members, you know, here’s a city employee lobbying for members,” says Chamber Director William Tasker.
Tasker just celebrated his one year anniversary in the position – the only thing that’s really changing for him in all of this is who’s in charge — now it will be the board of directors. The city is planning on giving the chamber some financial support to start out with, but after that they’re on their own.
“When you’re a city department, unless there’s a taxpayer revolt or something, you’re gonna get your budget, now we have to earn our budget and that means showing the members that it’s a great value proposition for them,” he says.
Both the city and the chamber say this does NOT mean the two are cutting ties.
City manager Austin Bleess says, “we anticipate a very close working relationship with the chamber, we’ve done a lot of great things with them…Thursdays on Sweden, winter carnival, we’ll continue to work with them on those things as well.”
Colton says though the chamber and the city still have some things to work out, she expects the chamber to get bigger in better in years to come. The Chamber of Commerce will still be in the Nylander museum, and the city will cover all of the building expenses.