WASHINGTON CITY —The new Washington Area Chamber of Commerce held its first official function Tuesday night at a ribbon-cutting celebrating the new ownership and recent renovation of the Holiday Inn Express and Suites just off the Exit 16/state Route 9 highway interchange.
“We’ve had a lot of people turn out,” said Ed Tracey, a Washington City resident who has helped spearhead the revival of Washington City’s own chamber of commerce in its newest incarnation.
Several area entrepreneurs and a few city officials attended the ribbon-cutting and accompanying gathering where some of the new chamber’s members were featured at tables along the wall in the conference room where the gathering took place.
Washington Area Chamber members readily visible at the gathering included the Holiday Inn Express and Suites, internet service companies Infowest and TDS, Ovation, Huntsman World Senior Games, Stucki Family Pharmacy and was held.
The chamber has close to 100 members so far, Tracey said.
Like other chambers of commerce, the purpose of the Washington Area Chamber is to provide a place where businesses can go to find representation and act as their voice if need be. It is also a place that provides networks and strives to help businesses grow and thrive.
“Our goal is to get out there and get them more business,” Tracy said in a previous interview with St. George News held Nov. 10.
This isn’t the first time the Washington City area has had a chamber of commerce, however. The last iteration of the chamber ended up merging with the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce in 2017.
Some of the members of the Washington Area Chamber are also members of the St. George Area Chamber, which Tracey said has been helpful in getting the Washington Chamber up and running. Both chambers are collaborating, Tracey said.
“The St. George Area Chamber is a champion of business in Southern Utah,” Tracey said. “We will be relying on them for a lot of help.”
In reviving the Washington Area Chamber, Tracy said he has also met with representatives of the Cedar City and Mesquite chambers of commerce as well.
Prior incarnations of a Washington City-based chamber of commerce have come and gone over the last 80 years or so, Tracy said. The reasons why they eventually went away were varied, though he attributed it to previous leadership either getting tired or burnt out and businesses dropping off along the way. There also didn’t seem to be a need for a separate chamber with the one in St. George readily available.
However, that line of thinking has started to change with the growth of the city and surrounding area, Tracey said.
“With the growth of Washington, there have been conversations saying, ‘You know, we want our own identity. We want to grow it.’ So we did,” he said.
Tracey met with the Washington City Council during its Nov. 10 meeting with a request for funding to help move the efforts of the newly revived chamber along but was ultimately denied due to skepticism among council members due to the chamber’s previous history.
Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson was at Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting and sounded more optimistic about the new chamber’s prospects.
“We’re excited for them,” the mayor said. “The support seems to be at a groundswell. … We wish them all the luck in the world and we want to support them however we can.”
While Neilson said he doesn’t want to see any disassociation from the St. George Area Chamber, he also said it’s time the city had its own chamber again.
“I think it’s important today, in this economy and this time, with the growth we are experiencing, to have a separate entity,” he said.
The Washington Area Chamber has a temporary office in the Cottontown Village area at 25 N. 300 West. In Washington City. The chamber is slated to eventually fill the ground floor of a new building being built in the area, Tracey said.
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