Chamber spreads its wings throughout N.W.

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer December 04, 2013 11:12 am

The Imnaha River canyon draw fishers, hikers and naturalists from around the world. The Wallowa County Chamber’s website received more than 80,000 visits this past year. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)
The Imnaha River canyon draw fishers, hikers and naturalists from around the world. The Wallowa County Chamber’s website received more than 80,000 visits this past year. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)

Ads touting area’s recreational offerings placed on outdoors radio show that reaches 53 stations in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana  

Those who live in Wallowa County know how special it is, as do the thousands of visitors who come every year to hike, hunt, fish and photograph the natural beauty. This past year, the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce has spread the message farther throughout the Northwest in hopes of increasing the county’s already vital tourism industry.

Chamber President Marc Stauffer has transcended his skill-set from fine furniture refinisher and community volunteer to radio personality. It all started when he wrote and voiced radio advertisements on Enterprise’s KWVR Radio promoting the county’s businesses and its natural beauty, which brings in substantial revenue each year to area businesses as well as supporting a motel tax that goes to organizations that support economic development, often through tourism. The chamber used a grant from the City of Enterprise’s motel tax revenue to keep its office open on Saturdays throughout the summer.

The chamber board decided it wanted to spend more of its money on advertising, so Stauffer linked up with John Kruse’s “Northwest Outdoors,” a show produced in Wenatchee, Wash., and aired in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana on 53 stations. Stauffer said the show can be picked up even in Canada.

“KWVR helped us record the chamber’s sponsorship ad for the show as well as county-specific ads,” Stauffer said.

The chamber lives on a very limited budget, so grants from the Wildhorse Casino in Pendleton and Community Bank paid for increased radio advertising.

Expanding the county’s exposure even more, Kruse produced two programs focused on Wallowa County, Stauffer said. Kruse highlighted Wallowa Lake and the tramway, rafted the Grande Ronde with Joseph outfitter Winding Waters Rafting, did a piece on The Joseph Fly Shoppe, Chief Joseph Days and Mule Days. He also did a segment called Road Trips and featured winter backpacking guided trips to the yurts in the Wallowa Mountains.

Wallowa County Chamber President Marc Stauffer produced radio spots promoting Wallowa County for the show “Northwest Outdoors.” It airs in Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho.
Wallowa County Chamber President Marc Stauffer produced radio spots promoting Wallowa County for the show “Northwest Outdoors.” It airs in Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho.
 

Two other accomplishments Stauffer added were the publication of a new county brochure and a revamp of the chamber’s website, which besides highlighting the county’s major events, maintains a calendar of all the events in the county from city council meetings to rodeos to art exhibits. Stauffer said the website is a major source of not only information, but a tool used by locals and visitors with 82,178 site visits last year.

Despite a concerted effort to bring in more visitors, the chamber doesn’t just serve tourists. Included in Stauffer’s year-end report to the county commissioners, it sponsors After Hours events for its members like the annual economic report in the winter and this past fall State Sen. Bill Hansell gave an update on the Legislature. This past spring during the state’s legislative session, Hansell and House Rep. Bob Jenson met once a month with local constituents via video conferencing at the Wallowa County Extension office.

Stauffer said the chamber brought in $29,000 in membership dues and added 25 new businesses for a total of 340.

A program now in its fifth year that gained popularity by a big bound last year is the chamber’s Buckskin Bucks — gift certificates purchased at the chamber which can be used at 50 Wallowa County businesses. In the past year, $21,030 Buckskin Bucks were sold over the $14,500 sold the year before. “They keep dollars circulating here in the county,” Stauffer said.

Cutting costs is always a concern and the chamber took two major steps to curb its budget, Stauffer said. In mid-November, the chamber moved its office into a smaller space in the same building in order to save $7,700 a year. Another cost-saving measure was offering its newsletter primarily online, saving a couple thousand dollars a year. Stauffer said they still have a limited number of printed versions for their members without access to email.

Coming up is the chamber’s toast to those members of the community who have distinguished themselves at the annual banquet held at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds’ Cloverleaf Hall Jan. 26. Tickets are available at the chamber office for
$30.

To find out more about the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce, visit www.wallowacountychamber.com or drop by their office at 309 South River St.