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Search is on for chamber director

By Thea Skinner

Triplicate staff writer

The search is on as the Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce begins to seek a chamber executive director.

"We have been looking for someone," said Grant Scholes, chamber vice president. The two we interviewed have been outstanding. If we feel that we are in the position to make a decision, we will."

In keeping with the county- community economic development vision – also known as the Community Progress Initiative – the chamber tentatively plans to reorganize staff and positions to serve in varying leadership roles.

The Community Progress Initiative arose from the consultation of David Beurle of Leadership Australia, Connie Loden, executive director of the Heart of Wisconsin Business and Economic Alliance, and Wayne Schell, president of the California Association for Local and Economic Development.

The executive director position will serve as the initiative and cluster coordinator, which is at the forefront of the community engagement roles, Chamber President Chris Howard said.

"We are on the brink of doing something big," he said. "There are very few people (in the community) doing a lot of things; that is why it is important to create leadership and have more than the same people applying for City Council."

A panel was created to interview prospective candidates for the executive director position. Searches for other leaders will occur later.

"We did not want to bring anyone on board until we knew the next step for economic development," Howard said. "The person we are looking for will need to have a public relations role" and other backgrounds.

A preliminary flow chart for the Community Progress Initiative outlines the proposed reorganization of chamber positions.

The reorganization would include the community engagement roles of business development coordinator and community building youth/leadership coordinator.

These positions, along with the executive director, will integrate Schell's recommendations to the community, such as the creation of a policy team.

The outline also shows that the executive director oversees separate managers that would handle customer service and travel information.

"The titles are not set in stone," Scholes said. "We want the title to be representative of what they are doing."

A slue of partnerships are being formed among several community groups.

The partners include The Del Norte Chamber of Commerce, Elk Valley Rancheria, Smith River Rancheria, Del Norte County, Rural Human Resources, Yurok Tribe, City of Crescent City, Del Norte Unified School District and Humboldt Area Foundation.

"All will have a say in how it works," Scholes said. "The chamber is taking the lead in organizing the resources that we have and combining them with other resources, instead of working against each other wasting time."

David Beurle of Leadership Australia will serve as the rural community development specialist. Connie Loden, executive director of the Heart of Wisconsin Business and Economic Alliance will serve as the community revitalization assistant.

About a year ago, the chamber underwent a several month process to fill the same position and the person only stayed for a month, Scholes said.

"We know what the pool (of prospective employees) is like out there," he said, "and we want someone who has an understanding of the rural community and a solid background in working with the public."

As the planning stage of the Community Progress Initiative is completed during the remainder of July, the groups will consider adopting the tentative action plan.

The plan's next phase would allow the groups to focus on creating industry cluster networks and exploring business opportunities along with forming a youth program involving a council, rallies and leadership school-based entrepreneurs.

Industry clusters networks are groups of similar firms in a defined geographic area that share common markets, technologies, worker skill needs, and are often linked by buyer-seller relationships.

Firms and workers in an industry cluster draw competitive advantage from their proximity to competitors, to a skilled workforce, to specialized suppliers and a shared base of sophisticated knowledge about their industry.

Reach Thea Skinner at

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