2017-04-20 / Front Page

Chamber, vintners forge ‘partnership’

Chamber won’t have director
By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff

A business partnership forged between the largest chamber of commerce in the county and the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association (LPVA) was born out of convenience for both touristrelated organizations, explains Chamber president Matt Gregory.

The LPVA had systems in place to handle bookkeeping and promote activites such as festivals over social media that through the partnership will be provided free of charge to the Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, Gregory said.

The Chamber, in exchange, will be better positioned to do what it does best — run a visitors center in Lake Leelanau and communicate with present and would-be visitors.

“We’re absolutely strengthening the social media part of the Chamber,” said Gregory, managing partner of Chateau de Leelanau winery in Bingham Township and former president of the LPVA. “This is a gift. From the LPVA standpoint, if the Chamber is doing well, that means the community is doing well. So we thought it was best to lend a hand to the Chamber.”

As part of the change, though, Chamber executive director Sally Guzowski will move from full time to a part-time position. Also, the Chamber will not have an executive director, calling on its members and Board of Directors to do more.

“She will focus on being there for visitors, answering questions,” said Gregory. “Sally is such a people person and so good with the public that we were hamstringing her doing paperwork.”

The administrative arm of the Chamber will be located at the LPVA headquarters in studio No. 1 in the Leelanau Studios in Greilickville. LPVA executive director Lorri Hathaway has been assuming clerical and administrative activities over the past few weeks, Gregory said.

“It’s something Lorri Hathaway has started to do, and she just ran with it. It was starting to get a bit difficult to deal with. And that system is already in place for the LPVA,” Gregory said.

Guzowski likened the change to “semi-retiring,” and looked forward to working in the popular Chamber Visitors Center off M-204 in Lake Leelanau this summer.

“It’s always busy in there, and that’s a good thing. And I’m happy that they’re keeping that location because it’s a good benefit for the membership. It’s centrally located in the county.”

Scott Koehler, who owns the Whaleback Inn with his wife, Tammie, agrees. He’s served on the 12-member Chamber Board of Directors for about 15 years.

“Our goal is to have Sally and volunteers pick up the slack. We want to have the Visitors Center open as much as they can. Running a Chamber is tough these days, making ends meet,” Koehler said.

Presently the center is only open from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. from Tuesdays through Fridays.

Two Chamber-sponsored events that should benefit from the partnership are a golf outing planned at Bahle Farms on Friday, June 9, and the Wine on the Water festival in Suttons Bay set for Saturday, July 15.

“The wine festival is really going to be great,” said Koehler. “We can use a lot of the resources of the LPVA, such as their social marketing, so I think that’s going to be a wonderful festival with more wineries and food vendors.”

Koehler said the partnership was not created to solve an overpowering problem facing the Chamber. He said membership has been steady at more than 200 members, and that the Chamber is financially healthy.

“We have a good board, and we’re going to try to operate without an executive director for awhile ... I think in the long run it will benefit the members and the community. I’ve been on the board for a long time, and that’s my opinion,” Koehler said.

Gregory said the boards of directors for LPVA and the Peninsula Chamber, which both voted to form the partnership, will continue to operate independent of each other. And the Leelanau Peninsula Economic Foundation, a private-sector nonprofit, will continue to report to the Chamber. Funds for the foundation start-up were provided by Leelanau County following dissolution of the county Economic Development Corporation.

The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce was not involved in the new partnership formed by LPVA and the Peninsula Chamber, Gregory continued.

“We’re looking for better ways that we can support our business communities. The way business is done has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. As that has changed, some of the smaller businesses have struggled to keep up. As a Chamber, we want to continue to develop and facilitate opportunities for our members,” Gregory said.

According to a press release from the chamber, the project will “achieve redefined mission, objectives and strategy of the LPCC as well as new branding, new strategic marketing plans, new networking opportunities, an ambassadors program, an updated Visitors Center in Lake Leelanau and improved digital access to visitors via an updated website, e-newsletter and enhanced social media platforms.”

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