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Cortez chamber moves into historic building, looks to fill leadership positions

The new Cortez Chamber of Commerce building is at 20 W. Main St. in downtown Cortez. Its offices are in the historic J.C. Penney building, which was constructed by the Anna and T. Gai family in 1953 and housed the local J.C. Penney Co. until the late 1980s. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Chamber looks for new executive director

The Cortez Area Chamber of Commerce has moved into a new office on Main Street, appointed new board members and announced a search for a new executive director as it continues to develop programs that support local businesses.

The new chamber offices, located in the historic J.C. Penney building at 20 W. Main St., include an info kiosk so individuals can find information on chamber members’ businesses, along with finding affordable work, meeting and event spaces.

“The new Business Resource Center provides a desperately needed business training and resource hub in our community,” said board chairwoman Bridgett Jabour. “This new facility functions as a business support center for our local businesses, as well as a type of business incubator to recruit and attract remote workers, freelancers and startups to our area by offering low-cost co-working and meeting space with a quality high-speed internet connection.”

“The center houses a handful of computer terminals and virtual learning stations that individuals can utilize to attend webinars or apply for grants and other business assistance for those who do not have access to that kind of technology at home or who would be more comfortable having someone who can help them through the process,” she said.

The chamber also offers business support resources in partnership with the Southwest Colorado Business Development Center and Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado Inc.

SBDC helps small businesses “obtain optimal success” through resources, training, workshops and free consultations. Region 9 works to improve economic conditions and promote prosperity.

“We continue to enhance and develop partnerships with Region 9, SBDC, city of Cortez, surrounding chambers, the SWCOG, Montezuma County and the First Southwest Community Fund,” Jabour said. “All of whom have been very supportive and excited about the new direction the chamber is going.”

Region 9, SBDC and the LOR Foundation have representatives in the chamber’s new resource center to provide a “one-stop shop” for local businesses.

Chamber strengthens board

The chamber also has announced that it is looking for a new executive director and has added four board members.

The director will replace Colton Black, who became executive director in early 2021. He previously worked for Dolores State Bank and Wells Fargo in Durango and lost a tight race to become La Plata County treasurer in 2018. According to his LinkedIn account, he has worked as economic development manager for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe since March.

Black took the reins after the coronavirus pandemic brought turnover at key positions in the chamber. Previous executive director Raquel Moss was let go because of financial troubles created by COVID-19.

The executive director will “oversee all operations, functions and activities” of the chamber and “will be the face of the organization, responsible for giving the proper strategic direction and implementing a high-quality vision,” according to the chamber’s website. The position pays $45,000 to $55,000 per year.

The chamber also has obtained new board members vice-chairman Houston Frizzell of Steve Keetch Motors, secretary and treasurer Dolores Sheets of Dolores Sheets Accounting, and members Brian Bartlett of Mesa Verde Country and Lindsay Fresquez of Say Yes Bridal. They have joined seasoned members Jabour of Southwest Health Systems and Katrina Weiss of Katrina Weiss State Farm.

“I’m so excited for the energy and experience of this board, and we are developing some great things to support our business community! We are always open to chamber members who may be interested in joining the board or using their expertise in one of our committees and programs,” Jabour said.

Chamber membership is available for business owners who want to leverage their business, increase networking opportunities and generate more advertising and other resources.

“We’re working with local business stakeholders and school districts to develop programs to provide basic business skills training to students to transition into local business positions such customer service, office occupations, communication skills, etc., for those students looking to stay in the area and work in our local business community,” Jabour said.

Some of the perks of a chamber membership are business listings in the chamber’s online directory, free job listings on the website, discounted advertising, grand openings with social media posts, half-price entry to networking events and social media shares of business events.

Hundreds of businesses are members, and the chamber works as the spokesperson for the businesses in its care by advocating for policies in local government that will promote these businesses.

“We have spoken to several local leaders and nonprofits who are impressed by the recent things the chamber has been doing and are optimistic for what those changes will bring for our local business community. We have many more plans and opportunities to grow our program; however, some of these we’re waiting to announce and implement (after) a new executive director is hired. We are actively seeking qualified candidates for this position, Jabour said.

People who want to apply to be a board member or executive director can apply by sending an inquiry email from https://www.cortezchamber.com/job-listings and follow up by submitting a cover letter and resume to info@cortezchamber.com.

Businesses who would like to apply to be a member of the chamber by applying online at cortezchamber.com.