Both Mark Abshire and Anji Scalf hail from Port Townsend, but now help lead business groups in neighboring communities on the Olympic Peninsula.
“You grow up here, (leave) and all you want to do is get back,” Abshire said.
Abshire and Scalf helped lead a joint meeting between Port Angeles and Sequim chambers of commerce on May 6 at Olympic Cellars Winery, with membership from both groups learning more about each other’s groups and talking about ways the entities can compliment and learn from each other.
“The whole purpose (of the meeting) is to get together, and share and build bridges,” Abshire said.
Scalf, director of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce for the past seven months, said following the meeting, “I was struck by how similar yet how different we are. Our priorities lie in a similar track to each other (and) I was inspired by how open to collaboration how both boards are.”
The chamber leaders announced Monday that they will host a second Clallam County Job Fair this year, set for Oct. 2. The fair will follow the same format as the March 20 fair and will be back at the Vern Burton Center in Port Angeles, Scalf said.
Chamber members agreed to work toward establishing a young professional network, and also urged each other to add more focus and attention on legislative issues affecting the business community in coming months, Scalf said.
She said the two chamber groups are planning a similar joint meeting in the fall.
Chambers in spotlight
About four or five years ago, Abshire said, the Port Angeles board decided to get its chamber out of the business of promoting tourism and instead focus on networking for local businesses.
“Everything we do is guided by (our) strategic plan,” Abshire said.
Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce projects, either produced by or with partners, include (among others) the annual Community Awards, Olympic Peninsula Wedding Show, Clallam County Job Fair, For the Love of Port Angeles, the Port Angeles Maritime Festival, the Community Fourth of July Celebration, Concerts on the Pier, Ride the Hurricane and cruise ship excursions.
The biggest change in recent years to the PA chamber’s budget — now at about $650,000 — was adding the Winter Ice Village event held November 2018-January 2019 that brought in more than $200,000.
The goal of that event, Abshire said, was to support and build Port Angeles’ economy in the traditionally slower winter months.
“We need more things going on in the wintertime,” he said.
Port Angeles boasts a current membership of 442 with a goal of 500, Abshire said.
Scalf said Sequim’s chamber membership is at 439 with a budget of a little under $250,000.
Sequim chamber projects and event partnerships include the Citizen of the Year program, annual Business Showcase, luncheons, after-hours events, Downtown Trick or Treat, Elk on a Shelf, Picnic in the Park, Hometown Holidays and the Clallam County Job Fair.
Colleen Robinson, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County and is a member of both chambers, said she’d like to see more youth involvement and more community partners on the Port Angeles board.
“It’s no accident we have members we share,” Scalf said.
“Both of our chambers are doing really well because we have good boards,” Abshire said.