Chamber gets new director

July 23, 2003 11:00 pm
Meagan Curtis, a Del Norte High School graduate, hopes to use her skills acquired in big cities to help the local economy find a focus. The 24-year-old former agriculture teacher is now spearheading the Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber of Commerce's drive to increase business membership in the Chamber. (Rick Postal/ The Daily Triplicate).
Meagan Curtis, a Del Norte High School graduate, hopes to use her skills acquired in big cities to help the local economy find a focus. The 24-year-old former agriculture teacher is now spearheading the Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber of Commerce's drive to increase business membership in the Chamber. (Rick Postal/ The Daily Triplicate).

By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

Meagan Curtis is out to change Del Norte County's business world, and she just might have the brains and energy to get it done.

She was hired last week by the community's top business leaders to act as executive director of the Crescent City–Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce.

At 25, Curtis has more education, travel and job experiences than most people have had by the age of 40.

Her goal, she said, is to use her skills to help Del Norte's economy find focus.

"This whole community needs to have a goal, and I would like to be part of getting us there," Curtis said.

Having grown up here and graduated from Del Norte High School in 1995, Curtis said she knows and loves the community.

Despite big job prospects in big cities Back East, she said she came back to be with family and get away from the hectic pace.

"I got a lot of experience with getting very familiar with the big players in the major agriculture businesses like M & M and Mars. And I was working with a lot of different people with a lot of different interests.

"I came back because I didn't care for the big-city life — it just felt like you were a dot in a big mass," she said.

Soon after her return in 2002, Curtis used her bachelor's degree from Chico State University and her masters degree from the University of Kentucky in agriculture business to land a job at Del Norte High teaching agriculture.

But with school district budget problems, Curtis was among the first to lose her job. She didn't leave without making a positive change, however.

"I had a real heart-to-heart with the students at the beginning of the year. We decided it was going to be rebuilding year. The Future Farmers of America Fund was only $300 at the beginning of the year, so we weren't going to be traveling much.

"So we worked our little buns off to rebuild by reaching out to the local businesses to get sponsorships. We ended the year with $2,000 in the account," she said.

"It was a good way and a good year to get reacquainted with the community," she added.

Soon after she was laid off, current Chamber Director Jeff Russell announced his resignation.

After a week and a half in the office learning the job, Curtis said she and the Chamber's board of directors are ready to take the Chamber in a new direction — and take Del Norte's economy with it.

"Marketing and tourism will continue to be a big deal, but a new thing we'll focus on is business advocacy — working on more of a one- on-one basis with business owners to see how we can serve them better," she said.

The new director said the Chamber plans to become more involved with local government and the Native American Tribal councils, as well as to create an alliance to drive the county's economic development toward success.

Curtis pledged to get more local businesses involved in the Chamber.

At present, there are 351 business members of the chamber out of a possible 1,100.

"I'm going to get myself out in the community and try to find out why," she said.

Russell held the job for more than 10 years. He said he resigned to start his own business, but would not comment further.