Full Disclosure: When I acquired Boulder City Social from its original owner, I said at that time I would strive to be unbiased, other than to be pro Boulder City, and pro Boulder City businesses. This article is written with that point of view in mind, and I recognize there are many complexities and opinions to the topics discussed below. However I’ve tried to present the facts clearly and truthfully.
Some of you may or may not be aware of the decision (or lack thereof) by the City Council during the Council meeting last week on May 19th regarding the possible move by the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce. The building currently holding the Chamber offices at 465 Nevada Way is being sold. The Chamber has been working on several locations, but one that was suggested and was debated that night was to move into an open portion of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) Building at 600 Nevada Way.
The measure failed, because no Council member was willing to put forward a motion or take any action at all.
The events that occurred that night were important not only for the business community in town, but for all of the residents of Boulder City.
There were some confusing statements made that night, so we did some fact-finding ourselves to sort them out. Here below is what we have learned:
The Benefits of our Chamber of Commerce
What does a Chamber do? In most communities they are an advocate for and representative of their local businesses. But in rural areas, such as Boulder City, they are much, much more. Their mission is to improve the overall quality of life for the entire town. Here are just a few examples of the events and projects that our Chamber has worked on, or created in just the past couple of years:
The 2020 BCHS Grad Night Parade (could not have happened without them), Spring Jamboree, The Think Tank, Community Clean-up Events, The Pooch Parade, The Big Clean, the Wine Walks, the Christmas Parade, the Tree Lighting (not to mention Jingle Cat!), The Boulder City Express, and also the incredible amount of work to help secure the funding for the Nevada Southern Railway Visitor Center and the Linear Park expansion.
Beyond that though, did you know for example that when ABC television first called Dale Ryan and Dyanah Musgrave to apply for the Great American Light Fight – they originally told them NO?!? If not for Jill Lagan, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and her staff, Dale and Dyanah would have never applied, and then their hard work, and our town, would have never received that amazing recognition!
And when Congresswoman Susie Lee wants to come to town, whom does she call? Jill Lagan, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, to set things up.
This town would literally be a much, much different world if we didn’t have such an incredibly active Chamber, and its face, Jill Lagan.
Non-Profits – Rents And Other Considerations
The night of May 19th, the matter before the City Council was to approve a lease/license agreement between the City and the Chamber, to allow them to rent a shared portion of the Los Angeles Water and Power Building (LADWP). They would have a 3-year agreement, sharing the space with Emergency Aid, and would pay $1/year in rent. Wait – what?
A couple of things:
1. Almost all of our local non-profits, including the Chamber, receive considerable reductions or virtually free rent from either private or government sources. This is standard to keep overhead low, and to maximize the amount of funds that go toward their end uses. Many of these non-profits would not even exist or be as effective without this type of consideration.
Currently, the Chamber of Commerce has had a lease agreement for that same $1/year rent in a building created with their location specifically in mind. The owner, Donna Saunders says, “The Chamber is such an important part of every community, whether the community is large or small, the Chamber is a vital part of the tree to success for the businesses, residents and City organization as a whole….This wasn’t my gift to the Chamber, it was my gift to the City, its businesses and residents.”
2. The current building will be sold this year, and the Chamber was informed they would need to find a new space. They have worked on many options over these past months, but of them, the LADWP building was beginning to look like the best option.
We spoke to Tom Tyler, the President of Emergency Aid, about the possibility of the Chamber moving into their shared location, and he told us, “I have no problem with the Chamber of Commerce being here, as long as there is no interference with my space and we are not asked to move out of our location.”
Emergency Aid also receives the same consideration on their rental space costs, making their overhead, other than utilities and maintenance, virtually zero.
3. Every other rural Chamber of Commerce in our area receives some sort of contractual stipend or financial support from their City – except Boulder City. ALL of them – but not ours. Why is that? It has long been the philosophy of Boulder City’s leadership that the business community was responsible for itself, period, and the Chamber has been no exception to that ideology.
Here’s some information rounded up specifically by the Chamber of Commerce and which was presented to the City Council, Jill Lagan, CEO says:
“In doing some research, I spoke with 8 of my peers to understand their relationship with their communities. 2 are housed within City Hall, several are in County buildings, 1 is in the convention center and 1 is inside a historic building and operates their tourist museum. All have contracts for service with their cities, and/or verbal agreements with their communities. Their offices are provided by that entity as part of the contract for service, with the exception of the one inside the historic building – they own that space. Some of the services provided by the Chambers in their contracts are tourism activities like map creation and distribution, relocation information distribution and visitor services. Some have BIDS and T-BIDS in their communities and the Chambers receive a designated portion for their contract. One had an event contract with the City for their time to coordinate efforts to produce community events. Several receive room tax increments to run their visitor center operations.”
In Boulder City, EVERY business is a Member of the Chamber of Commerce. Investing Members pay dues, and those along with fundraisers, such as Spring Jam and the Wine Walks are what give the Chamber the funding to work for the community as they do.
They receive no financial contract or compensation from the City or taxpayers in the production of their 50,000+ Visitor and Relocation Guides, the distribution of thousands of printed materials, maps, tourism advertising and the expenses involved in advertising regionally to entice visitors to Boulder City. But again, every other rural Chamber in our area does.
Questions, Problems and Conflicts
Everything that has been shared above, I believe, the City Council and City Staff are aware. The City is not responsible in any way to help the Chamber find a location to operate from, but if the Chamber wishes to lease City property, then the City Council must of course, approve that decision. For the proposed move above, there were no zoning or planning changes being affected. So this would be a simple approval of the license to the space. But it turns out, like many things in Boulder City, this wasn’t simple at all.
For reasons I’m still not clear on, the Mayor, who has complete discretion on this issue, made this agenda item one where Jill Lagan, the CEO of the Chamber, was to make a 5-minute statement at the beginning of the hearing. Public comment was allowed on this agenda item at the beginning of the meeting, but not allowed during the presentation of the item, and it is not a requirement that this be so. When the matter for discussion came up on the agenda, Jill Lagan was available for comment, but when asked if she should dial in for interaction with the Council during the discussion, this option was bypassed. Thus having the effect that whatever was said, the Chamber was allowed no direct representation to answer questions or define and explain its own interests. (Sit with that please, for a minute.)
There were many questions and issues with the contract presented at Council. There were logistical problems with the license agreement itself, listing the wrong address and other issues. Questions were raised that Emergency Aid should continue to have enough space. One Council member, who has worked extensively with EA over the years, said there was ample space even if they should need to expand their services.
Another issue made visible that night was that EA is also functioning with a month-to-month lease. Some of you may be aware that over the past year or so, Tom Tyler of EA has raised concerns he would be asked to move or be ‘forced out’ of his current location. Given that he has no long-term lease, one can indeed understand his concerns.
The license proposed for the Chamber of Commerce that night was for a 3-year term. But when we spoke to Jill Lagan of the Chamber, she says simply that was the number put before her by staff, and that had she been able to address the Council, she would have been fine with a month-to-month lease, the same as EA.
Lastly, there was a careless remark made by the Mayor, Kiernan McManus, where he stated that, “the Chamber appears to linger without paying anything”, as though the Chamber is made up of nothing more than a bunch of millennial couch-hoppers.
But after all of this discussion the matter simply failed, as no Council member was willing to make a motion, even to adjust the proposed agreement, fix it in session, contact Ms. Lagan to answer their questions, or instruct City staff to renegotiate the terms of the license – all of which were options available to them. They did none of these, and the matter died.
The result of this is that Boulder City’s Chamber of Commerce will continue to serve the community such as it can, but also continue to find a place to move into. This is happening of course after many businesses in town have had to shut down completely during the required closures due to the pandemic, and is literally a business community in crisis. The Chamber is vital to helping businesses understand their constantly changing rules of operation and now that organization will be distracted by having to defend its own viability to its own City government.
These are unprecedented times – they really are – that’s not just some advertising tag line. There will be real consequences in these coming years for businesses and our community due to cancelled or postponed fund-raisers, events, and just flat out lost revenue. The optics on this decision, at this time, is hardly favorable to our city or the business community as a whole.
As far as Jill Lagan and the Chamber are concerned, they are moving on. They will continue to work on moving into the abandoned state Visitor Center down on the intersection of Nevada Way and Boulder City Pkwy. even though this is far away from the business core.
Ida Browder founded our Boulder City Chamber of Commerce in 1932. The business community in this town is strong and has deep roots. We will thrive and carry on as we always have. The Chamber has been here for us, and we will be there now, for the Chamber.