by Lorie Lewis Ham
Ever wonder what exactly a Chamber of Commerce does? We took some time to sit down with Erik Valencia, the Executive Director of the Reedley Chamber of Commerce, to find out. Erik has been in this position for almost a year having begun on August 28, 2017. Prior to joining the Chamber of Commerce, Erik spent ten years working as a Public Relations Consultant for the Kings Canyon Unified School District. Before that he was the Panorama Editor for The Reedley Exponent, and from from 2010 to 2016, he also volunteered his services as a Marketing and PR Consultant for Reedley’s River City Theatre Company.
KRL: Can you explain to us what a Chamber of Commerce does?
Erik: A chamber of commerce is a form of business network whose goal is to further the interests of businesses. Business owners in towns and cities form these local organizations to advocate on behalf of the business community.
KRL: Do you know when Reedley’s Chamber first began?
Erik: According to The Reedley Exponent, a Board of Trade was formed in Reedley on March 8, 1902. In October of 1907, the Board of Trade became the Reedley District Chamber of Commerce. Even though a chamber of commerce was permanently organized there was no mention of it being incorporated at that time. After the City of Reedley had incorporated in 1913, a new chamber board of directors was elected on January 22, 1914, and it was unanimously decided that the organization should be incorporated at that time. I am uncertain of what happened between then and 2008, but it is my understanding that the Chamber was reorganized in 2009 as the GREATER REEDLEY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE with the bylaws of the new chamber being adopted on May 19, 2009.
KRL: What are the benefits to a business in joining the Chamber?
Erik: There are many benefits to joining the Chamber of Commerce. First, we advocate for businesses and help them leverage the strong partnership between the Chamber and City Hall. We work to help businesses cultivate important business relationships through our networking functions. We help businesses build their brand and identity through Chamber sponsored events and programs. And we help businesses keep their professional knowledge current by providing them with workshops and seminars.
KRL: Who can join?
Erik: Anyone! Small and large businesses, non-profit organizations, and even individuals are all members.
KRL: Do you do anything to help encourage new businesses to come to Reedley?
Erik: We work closely with the City of Reedley’s Community Development Department and the Fresno Economic Development Corporation to promote Reedley as a desirable place for businesses to locate. Although Reedley has new businesses opening all the time, what I have discovered in my short time with the Chamber is the businesses residents say they would like to see open are often national chains. These types of business typically have a formula, usually based on population size, income, distance from major highways, etc., that determines if they will locate in a specific area or not.
KRL: Do you do anything to encourage tourism in Reedley?
Erik: It is the Chamber’s belief that tourism plays a positive role in the local business climate, so the Chamber also serves as the City’s unofficial visitors bureau. We field many calls at the office, and we also have many visitors stop by our office looking for maps and asking what there is to do in town.
KRL: What kind of things would you tell someone visiting the town as to what to see and where to go?
Erik: I feel like the answer to this question could be its own separate issue for Kings River Life. Reedley has so many unique sights to see and things to do, so it really depends on the conversations we have with people. Some visitors are simply passing through town on their way to the national parks and are only looking for a place to eat or shop. Others may be staying overnight and need information for lodging or may be looking for some activities to do while in town. No matter the situation, we do our best to promote all that Reedley has to offer.
KRL: Have there been any changes in the Chamber since you came into this position?
Erik: Coming in as a new Executive Director for the Chamber, I am sure my approach to things has been different than my predecessors, so in that sense, yes, there has been change. But aside from that, the chamber is still focused on having the interests of Reedley Businesses at the forefront.
KRL: What are the future goals of the Chamber?
Erik: The Chamber is currently working with the Fresno Economic Development Corporation to put out a survey to the local business community to better gauge where Reedley is and where Reedley would like to be. Once we get the results from this survey the Chamber will revisit its mission and vision to make sure our goals are in alignment with the needs of the community. We are also looking to expand our advocacy for business with the formation of a Government Affairs Committee.
KRL: What sort of events do you put on? What is coming up yet this year?
Erik: Most people connect the Chamber with the Reedley Fiesta which is the largest event we put on, but we also put on the Chamber Awards Dinner in the Spring. We put on Good Morning Reedley which is a networking event hosted at a different Chamber business on the third Thursday of each month. We also regularly host ribbon cuttings for new businesses and put on various business workshops and seminars. We are also looking to take over the Farmers Market from the Reedley Downtown Association next Summer and have plans to put on a Business Expo.
KRL: What does it cost a local business to join?
Erik: The cost for a business with six or less employees is $250 a year. For businesses with seven or more employees, the cost is $400. The cost for non-profit organizations and individuals is $100.
KRL: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Erik: I am truly humbled by the support I have received from the community as the Chamber’s new executive director. Having been born and raised in Reedley, it is an honor for me to now be in a position where I feel I can help make a positive impact on the community I love.
KRL: Where are you located and what are your hours?
Erik: Our office is located 1633 11th Street in Downtown Reedley. Our regular business hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed for lunch).