SneakPeak 2/6/2013: Eagle Chamber kicks off local campaign

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Luigi's Pasta  House, located in downtown Eagle Ranch, and its sister restaurant The Dusty Boot are among the businesses on board for the Eagle Chamber of Commerce's new shop-local initiative. The chamber hopes to bolster its outdoor amenities, especially mountain biking, and draw outside visitors to the town.

After spending a few years on the sidelines of the down-valley business community, the Eagle Chamber of Commerce is back with a bold new game plan.

As proof of this renewed verve, the advocacy group recently launched a campaign specifically for small businesses and local entrepreneurs. At the campaign’s core is a simple, oft-repeated “buy local” slogan that’s nonetheless welcome by owners and – most importantly – proven to be a boon in towns of every size.

“These sorts of campaigns are nothing earth-shattering or new,” says Taylor Slaugh, the chamber’s new part-time administrator and another part of its fresh start. “They’re done across the country by people large and small. In the past, they’ve proven to increase sales in all varieties of communities. People like to know exactly how their money can help their own community, and we make it easy for business owners to show that.”

And simplicity is key to the campaign’s layout. Beginning this week, Slaugh and others brought packets to businesses in Eagle and Gypsum filled with posters, stickers and other highly visible materials touting the benefits of buying local. The chamber opted for a simple “Top 10” format, from direct benefits like keeping Eagle-defining businesses afloat to more abstract perks like cutting down on emissions from online shopping deliveries.

The chamber also practices what it preaches: All the materials were printed locally at Old Gypsum Printer, even though Slaugh mentions it could’ve been cheaper to go through a large, faceless online outlet.

“This is all about embracing what makes Eagle unique,” Slaugh says. “The campaign is largely about keeping tax dollars in the community, giving back to these businesses and nurturing the people who make this town a very attractive place.”

This brand of campaign is a near-perfect fit for a mountain community so closely tied to outdoor recreation and tourism. Although the posters and other materials seem a bit old-fashioned, they grab customer attention, and business owners like Alisa Galehr of Elements, A Day Spa in Eagle Ranch, know how important the tiniest help can be.

“As a local business, it’s always nice to remind people we’re here,” says Galehr, who notes how empty many of the storefronts in Eagle Ranch have remained even after the national economy picked up. “Especially now, it seems like people are really starting to realize the benefits of buying local.”

Slaugh hopes the campaign will not only boost interest from residents, but attract out-of-town customers who might otherwise gravitate to up-valley communities like Vail and Avon. The entire valley relies on tourist spending, she notes, and a joint effort from down-valley businesses could show what the area has to offer for everyone.

“We’re very focused on hitting those bridge seasons, where Vail and Beaver Creek and those other places can’t quite offer what we have,” Slaugh says. “The people who live here can only support so many things in a tourist town, but we know there is plenty to attract people from outside areas.”

Come together

The chamber campaign debuts shortly after the Town of Eagle ramped up its own efforts to attract outside interest. High on the list of town-based efforts is the “Eagle Outside” movement, a plan unveiled last year to champion the area’s outdoor recreation, particularly mountain biking. Many residents say the local terrain is on par with anything found in hotbeds like Fruita or Montrose, but a haphazard trail system made it difficult for even familiar cyclists to find their way around.

To ease this confusion and begin taking a bite out of lost tourism, the town unveiled a dedicated website, www.EagleOutside.com. It comes with basics like information on trails and lodging, as well as community-minded features like GPS mapping and a portal to upload personal photos and videos.

With its emphasis on clear, concise content – not to mention an attractively modern look – Eagle Outside bears a striking resemblance to the chamber’s own revamped website, www.EagleChamber.co. Slaugh says a new, more appealing online presence was the first order of business when the flagging chamber decided to regroup. She has spent the past few months using it to connect local businesses and show owners that the chamber can work with the town for everyone’s benefit.

“We’re coming at things with a slightly different angle, but the end goal is to help attract more outside events as well as the people who are already in the community,” Slaugh says. “We want to set an example with what we’re doing on our end.”

For relatively new entrepreneurs like Galehr, whose spa celebrated its one-year anniversary in December, this relationship building is invaluable. She’s impressed with the strides the chamber has made, particularly with Slaugh at the helm.

“We’re excited about the changes that have happened since Taylor took over,” Galehr says. “I feel like there are lots of opportunities with what they have to offer. We’ve already had such a positive welcoming in the community, and this campaign seemed like a perfect way to connect with the people who tell us they want to see our part of town grow.”

A fresh start  

As the first and most visible portion of the chamber’s energetic push to keep local tax  dollars in the community while attracting out-of-town interest, the campaign is also a much-needed step forward for a nonprofit that has dealt with trying monetary issues of its own over the past half decade. The chamber was nearly $100,000 in debt, and the  all-volunteer board of directors worked hard to put the organization back on track.

“It was an especially amazing feat to get out of that hole,” Slaugh says. “For a few years there, they just tried to keep it together. As volunteers with family and other work, that got to be hard.”

Along with the “buy local” campaign and fresh website, Slaugh’s position was high on the list of necessities. Her presence has been invaluable, particularly with the upcoming Screaming Eagle Golf Tournament in late May. The chamber has run the fundraising event for 17 years, but this year promises to be one of the biggest yet, complete with a custom-brewed (and branded) beer from Bonfire Brewing.

“Bonfire’s involvement is a great example of how one business can help everyone else,” Slaugh says. “And not only will they participate, they wanted to. This is a great collaborative project, and I hope it’s a sign of things to come.”

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