Sonora, CA – Shortly into the New Year major changes are in the works for the Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce, including its chief executive’s departure and an office move.
In an interview with Clarke Broadcasting, Chamber Executive Director Amelia Harrison shares details of her bittersweet decision to leave what she calls her “dream job” at the helm of an organization she has been involved with for the past 15 years. It all came down to family reasons, she says, further describing her planned mid-March move back to Orlando to help care for her special needs sister and assist her 84-year-old mother. The decision while recently made with Harrison’s other two siblings, who live in or near the Mother Lode, follows the unexpected death of their father back in December.
“Someone needs to be closer than 3,000 miles away to help, and since I had a life back there that my siblings did not, we as a family, decided that I would go back,” Harrison says. Without question, she adds, it is the right decision and one she is embracing even though she knows she will miss being part of all the progress she proudly notes over her past two-and-a-half years as ED.
ED Search Plans Underway
Harrison notes that the chamber board has put together a hiring committee and will be looking for a person to work as an interim ED to make sure everything continues moving forward in the right direction for the next three to six months while they are interviewing for her replacement.
Under her tenure, Harrison says membership has grown from about 255 to 315 – a gain of about 24 percent. She emphasizes that the members are active participants, not just dues payers, and that there are new benefits and new, priced down participant levels in place to encourage at home and remote businesses without storefronts. “We have moved forward in outreach, providing workshops, town hall meetings and being more involved with the county and its business-related decisions,” Harrison recounts, adding that personal interface has grown and her office is actively remapping how it works with businesses and those seeking to open businesses.
Examples, she says, include providing ways and means for folks to get business counseling, work on new business plans and remain sustainable. Last March, education outreach involved a fire preparedness workshop focused on how to keep businesses up and running during an emergency. Then later in the year came the Dardanelle and Ferguson fires, which affected local businesses. She shivers, thinking about the Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise, a town with a somewhat similar rural profile to Mother Lode communities.
New Home At New ‘Economic Prosperity Center’
In the midst of Harrison’s planned personal move, the chamber is in the process of relocating this month to a space it will share with the Mother Lode Workforce and Job Training at 197 Mono Way. “We are going to be part of a developing concept called the Tuolumne County Economic Prosperity Center…almost like a one-stop shop business- community help area,” she explains.
“It is basically shared space and a bunch of wonderful minds brainstorming and working to move business forward in Tuolumne County,” she continues. The goal is to gather all related resources in one place to communicate, work together for one common goal without replication of tasks, and to be more productive and proactive.
Asked for any parting words to the community, Harrison confides plans to be a regularly returning visitor. “Just please continue to support the chamber and businesses in Tuolumne County — and I’d like to be able to come back in six months to a year and say ‘wow’…I just want to see everything continuing on a positive path and everyone working together as a team.”