Ridgecrest Chamber to celebrate 75 years of service

Ridgecrest Chamber to celebrate 75 years of serviceBy LAURA QUEZADA

News Review Staff Writer

Tim Smith, Executive Director of the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce, says the Chamber is seeking nominations for awards through Monday, May 31, to be presented at the 75th Annual Installation and Awards Luncheon on July 13. To nominate a business or individual go to their website, https://www.ridgecrestchamber.com/awards. One does not need to be a Chamber member to be nominated. New this year is the Entrepreneur Award, “because there have been a handful of businesses that started in the midst of a pandemic.” But more important, “What we really want to do is celebrate our 75th Anniversary as a Chamber. It will be a good time to have cake and celebrate: to give an opportunity to give praise in the midst of a tough year.” He emphasizes, “New Board Members will be installed that day. But really, it is just an opportunity to celebrate. Celebrate what was and to celebrate what is coming.” He adds, “We are hopeful that the luncheon is one of the first things we do that is in-person and that will help shape the reopening for all of Ridgecrest. We anticipate this will be one of the first in-person gatherings for the business community.”

Smith tells us, “There is value in reminding our current era that we have been around and we are still providing value. You look back on 75 years, 1946, before the city was formed. The Chamber functioned on behalf of the city in many ways. It was one of the early organizations. To think through some of the things that the chamber has participated in helping launch and how the chamber has been a part of our community.” He provides the example of the formation of the fairgrounds, “It started as a committee under the chamber and eventually it became its own thing.” Over the years the Chamber has been resilient, “When we look at what was - there is room for us to look forward to what would be. Do we know what will be? Not necessarily. Did we anticipate a pandemic that was going to wreak havoc across our world? No. But we shifted and navigated and will continue to do that.”

The shifts started immediately at the onset of the COVID restrictions, “As soon as the shutdown happened last March we canceled all of our in-person gatherings, including small group meetings and board meetings. We felt that it was important that we set a tone for the community from the Chamber as a leading organization for the businesses in town to model that for our community.” Their weekly e-mail updates shifted from announcing upcoming Chamber events to keeping members apprised of “important information that was coming through that would impact our local businesses. We started sharing articles that we would get from Cal Chamber, local newspapers, or broader bigger picture news of what was going on in the state. We tried to put out all of the pertinent information that we got from all the different avenues that maybe the local businesses were too busy trying to stay afloat to keep track of everything. This year there was so much to keep up with. Our goal was to try to share as much as we could so they knew that we were a resource for them.”

The Chamber is primarily funded by membership which accounts for two-thirds of their income. “Historically the rest of it comes from our Economic Outlook Conference and the Ridgecrest Chamber Follies fundraiser.” The Follies will return in April 2022; however, the Economic Outlook Conference was offered in February. “It was purely virtual; that has never been done before. We felt that there was so much value in the content that was provided that we wanted to move forward and do that. I believe it was a success. The content lives on in video on our website.”

A new revenue source is the electric sign on the corner of Bowman and China Lake Boulevard. “The sign started to fall into disrepair five to six years ago. It was very difficult to locate a vendor who could work on the sign. Through persistence we located Encore Image from the LA area.” They were able to keep the original post, the structure and the electrical wiring. The sign is made of several panels, so if one goes out it is easily repaired, assuring continuity. “We are providing 50% paid advertising and 50% community advertising. We have a limited amount of spots. We are hoping the sign will provide a great opportunity to get the word out about different things. We are pairing that with our community calendar, Ridgecrestevents.com, so if an event isn’t in the community calendar, it won’t go up on the electric sign. As soon as it was up people were asking how to put ads on. We are excited and hopeful that it will continue to grow as businesses are able to see the value and get their feet back under them after the pandemic.”

One can apply for Chamber of Commerce membership online at https://www.ridgecrestchamber.com/membership or contact the Chamber office at 760-375-8331 or chamber@ridgecrestchamber.com. Smith says, “It is a mutual benefit association. The members get what they put into it. There are things that are tangible: a new member gets an article in the newsletter, there are opportunities for ribbon cuttings, when the ambassadors gather again there are opportunities to do Business After Hours, the luncheons, the networking, to connect and learn and meet the community.” But the greatest benefit is, “Being a part of an organization that is really about the same community that you are a part of.”

Smith asserts, “The Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce really is about building community and strengthening the economy. Our mission statement has five things that we are about, but they boil down to those two.”

Laura Austin photo: Tim Smith, Executive Director of the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce, announces 75th Anniversary plans.

Story First Published: 2021-05-28