February meeting scheduled to determine future of Vale Chamber

Led by Mayor Tom Vialpando and local trader Cathy Zacharias, the meeting is designed to find out the level of interest in revitalizing the business group.

Cathy Zacharias (right) works with local resident Amy Heward at her business, ExZacht Sewing & Alterations, on Friday. Zacharias, along with Vale Mayor Tom Vialpando, will sponsor a meeting on February 16 regarding the relaunch of the Vale Chamber of Commerce. (The Company/PAT CALDWELL)

VALE — Mayor Tom Vialpando and local business owner Cathy Zacharias want to hear from local residents and business owners about the future of the Vale Chamber of Commerce at a special meeting next month.

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 16, at 7 p.m., at Zacharias’ business, ExZacht Sewing & Alterations, 289 A St. W.

Zacharias said her role was just to set up the meeting and listen, and that she hoped “to see the chamber do something in the future.”

“I would like to have the chamber council where we all work together,” Zacharias said.

In recent years, the chamber has existed in spurts. The Covid pandemic has effectively put the organization on hold in 2020.

Kate Humphrey, owner of Vale Bookkeeping Services, along with Kim Speelman, who works for Field-Waldo Insurance Agencies Inc. in Ontario, spearheaded the chamber’s return in abbreviated form in late 2020.

Due to the pandemic, the chamber did not collect membership dues until 2021 and remained an ad hoc organization. The chamber has only sponsored a few events, such as Vale’s 4th of July Rodeo Parade.

Vialpando said it was time to see if business owners in the region were willing to participate in a more vibrant chamber or just let the organization dissolve.

Vialpando said the chamber is an important part of any city to attract business. Vialpando said when he meets potential business owners who are considering Vale, they usually ask him the same question.

“They ask, ‘Do you have a room and what is its resistance?'” Vialpando said.

“Hopefully we can generate renewed interest from businesses in the region so that we can be together and help each other,” Vialpando said.

He said the chamber’s goals are different from those of the Vale Community Coalition, another local civic organization.

“These are two separate missions. The coalition is essentially for projects. The chamber is strictly made up of business owners,” Vialpando said.

Humphrey walked away from the chamber in December.

“That’s another reason to have this meeting, to organize. Right now the chamber has no leaders. This meeting will see if people still want to move forward,” said Vialpando.

If there’s no interest, he said, the city “may consider other ways to promote our businesses.”

Former chamber speaker Dwight Keller said he planned to attend the meeting.

A bedroom, he said, is “a brilliant idea that needs to be realized”.

“But I don’t know how you do it. We just have to figure out how to do it and make it work,” Keller said.

Zacharias, who opened her business seven years ago, said she wanted to see Vale business owners working together and a viable chamber is a good way to achieve that goal.

“I would like to see what people want to do. Those who want to participate, great, let’s do something. I would like to succeed,” she said.

Zacharias said she hopes a strong system of networking between companies can be created.

“Let’s find a common direction,” she said.

Topical advice? Contact journalist Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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