Two chambers of commerce in the Northwest — Marana Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce — are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year, not by reveling in past, but by looking toward what they might accomplish in the future.
The Marana chamber, headed by president and Chief Executive Officer Ed Stolmaker, is celebrating its 25th year, while the Greater Oro Valley chamber, headed by president and chief operating officer Dave Perry, is celebrating its 20th.
The Marana chamber, currently at 537 members, hasn’t grown much over the past five years of uneasy economic times, said Stolmaker, but nor has it lost its strong base.
“Eventually the Town (of Marana) will grow again and we (the chamber) want to be located on Main Street in town,” Stolmaker said. “We realize we have to raise funds to do that and determine our needs for the next 20 years, which are things that came out of a recent planning session.”
Stolmaker said the Marana chamber intends to continue to work closely with the town to address issues that affect business owners, especially home-based businesses.
“We have a number of them as members and are reaching out to support them,” he said. “We’ve asked them what they like about doing business in the area and what we can do to help improve business for them.”
Stolmaker noted that he sees the Marana Chamber, which originally began as the Greater Marana Avra Valley Chamber of Commerce in 1987, as pegging its growth to that of the town.
“We have a great partnership with the Town of Marana,” he pointed out. “The town has a solid strategic plan, so it knows what direction it’s going, which is very helpful to us.”
Stolmaker believes that the Marana Chamber should also be a force in the community.
“As a group, we want to give something back to the community,” he said. “So we’ve worked with the Marana-based National Guard Readiness program, participated in the State of the Town, the Marana Foundation, the regional food bank and the Marana Health Center.”
The Greater Oro Valley chamber encompasses the town of Oro Valley and extends south of Town through the Ina and Oracle roads area, east to Skyline Drive toward the Foothills resorts, west down Ina Road and northwest to Dove Mountain.
Membership, which has 390 members, includes major out-of-Oro Valley businesses such as those owned by Jim Click, Rosemont Copper and Tucson Electric Power.
Perry pointed out that the Oro Valley chamber formed in 1992 under its current name, became the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce in 1998, and in 2011 reverted to its original name.
“Over the past 20 years, this chamber has become a presence with regard to public policy concerning the Town of Oro Valley government,” Perry said. “And that will continue.”
Perry said the networking business-to-business opportunities in the Northwest that the Oro Valley Chamber has provided has built and strengthened many business relationships in the town that continue to this day.
The Oro Valley chamber looks at itself as both a business and a community organization, Perry said.
“We give three $2,000 scholarships per year though the Steve Engle Scholarship program, something we’d like to expand in coming years,” Perry said. “We’ve helped businesses get temporary relief on A-frame signs and outdoor merchandise display, and would like to see that relief made permanent. Our members tell us it has been very important to their businesses.”
Perry said the Oro Valley Chamber is also keen on promoting the economic expansion zone in the town.
“We want to see that zone around Innovations Drive bring in the next biotech company for Oro Valley,” he said. “That’s very important both to businesses and to the community as a whole.”
Calling the Oro Valley Chamber “financially stable,” Perry said the board of directors is interested in an expanded offering of services as finances permit.
“We want to do more with visitors and relocations in Oro Valley,” Perry said. “We see ourselves becoming a tourism information center for greater Oro Valley and are exploring the possibility of relocating our headquarters to Steam Pump Ranch in conjunction with the historical society.”
Perry said he envisions a visitor’s center at Steam Pump Ranch that includes interpretation areas of the history of the ranch and the area.
“We’ll be able to direct people to the highlights of Northwest Tucson, Pima County and the City of Tucson,” he said.
Building strong relationships with all its members is another important facet of the Oro Valley Chamber’s long-range plans.