A year from now, Scott Ingham says the Ballard Chamber of Commerce will be noticeably different. In fact it may not even be called the Chamber. Ingham is one of the new co-presidents of the Chamber. He, along with fellow co-president Greg Swanson, presented their plans for the future at the last Chamber luncheon. “This is a transition year,” Ingham tells the full house.
Late last year the Chamber held three focus groups to figure out what is important to Ballard businesses. From those discussions, the Chamber staff and board put together their goals for 2012.
One of the changes that the Chamber is considering is forming a Business Improvement Area, or BIA. A BIA is a geographic area where businesses and residents can be assessed. The funds collected will go into a pot to be used to improve that area.
“If you are in a designated BIA area, and depending on what the formula is that is established for the assessment, then you are assessed,” Ingham explains. “If you are a property owner, a business property owner, you will be assessed the amount that is determined.”
A BIA would pay for such things as police support/security to keeping the sidewalks clean on a regular basis. “Today we really don’t have that capability,” Ingham says. “A BIA seems to be a logical option that we want to explore.” He says that they are in the very early stages of looking into this.
Beth Williamson Miller, the executive director of the Chamber says that there are many different ways to determine the assessment and community input will be sought if they decide to move forward with the BIA. She also adds that the funds are 100-percent matchable for neighborhood grants.
Attracting new members is key to any successful organization and the Chamber knows they need to make some changes to attract more businesses. Their goal is a 15-percent growth over last year, Ingham and Swanson tell the attendees at the meeting.
“Part of the challenge has been, we just haven’t had the time or the resources to get out there and talk to those businesses that aren’t members to say, ‘Hey, have you thought about becoming a member? Here are the benefits that we can bring to you,'” he says.
The Chamber is looking at making themselves more accessible to businesses with social media and after hours social events, giving people access to more real-time information about what the Chamber is doing.
“My suspicion is that we’ll have a new look and feel to the organization,” Ingham tells us. “We may not be called the Ballard Chamber anymore.”
SeafoodFest is arguably Ballard’s most recognizable event. With 60,000 or so attendees, it brings many people to Ballard for two days during the summer. The event is sponsored by the Chamber and takes a lot of time to plan, organize and execute. Ingham says one of the goals for 2012 is to give Chamber staff more free time to focus on member needs and talk with potential members.
“You won’t see a different SeafoodFest,” Ingham says. “What you’ll see is less Ballard Chamber staff time invested in the minutia of operating and getting that event planned.” He says they’re looking at outsourcing the event planning to an event management company.
A slow road ahead
Ingham admits that these are lofty goals that won’t happen over night. At the end of the year the Chamber wants to have a successful organization, a more collaborative relationship with retailers and a safe and clean neighborhood.
“In February 2013 you will see a noticeably different organization if we’re successful and I think we will be successful,” Ingham says. (MyBallard is a member of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce.)