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Orion Sanders, President

STATE of the CHAMBER ADDRESS

It’s a huge understatement to say this last year has been our most challenging.  

 

The closure of most of our businesses were potentially devastating. The cancellation of our events has been the toughest.  It's one of our primary tools that bring locals and visitors to our businesses.  

 

But like our businesses we endured, we supported each other, we stepped up to the challenge and we survived.  

 

We learned how to “Zoom”, which led to us creating an interactive meeting center so we could choose to Social Distance and manage the business of supporting our members.  And we redecorated the community room with help from Jeremiah and Erin Thompson.  The grounds around our Community Center have been kept clean, beautiful and green, and new plants were planted around the facility.  Thank you Bruce for being our champion in this effort.  

 

We are blessed to live in a valley with generations, from an active youth community in the digital age to the quiet tranquil life of retirement.  A place where dad still buys the newspaper every day, and where the younger generation has submitted to obtaining their news from a digital platform.  The diversity of our community is what small town life is all about.  It’s a place where the young seek the thrill of adventure and the middle age come to get away from the concrete jungles of city life.

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Our Mission

“To serve and support our members; to attract visitors, new residents and job creating businesses to the area; to pursue valley wide economic development; and to manage and improve the various community properties entrusted to our care.”

 

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In June of 2020 we actively began to increase value in being a member.  Value to which all of our businesses could benefit, regardless of their location or type of business.  Promoting commerce for our Members across all types of media.  Media that reaches out to the diversity of our community and visitors alike.  By doing so it had a 30% increase in Membership from the previous year.  Thank you Monica for being a champion of that effort.

We printed and distributed thousands of our first Business Guide.  A guide in which all our members are listed.  Although we missed out on distributing thousands more if it were not for the cancellations of Trade Shows due to the covid pandemic.  We are now receiving notice that these are coming back.

Our Member Spotlights began back in July promoting our businesses each week potentially reaching over 10,000 people across our media platforms every time.  We have promoted our members events, everything from annual sales, youth activities, fundraisers and community clean-ups.  Thank you Gary and the Kern River Conservancy for being a champion in keeping our community clean.

We have celebrated new businesses opening and becoming members.  Providing Ribbon cutting ceremonies and promoting our new members to assist in their groundbreaking success.  Proving that even a small town community can thrive during these challenging times. 

By creating our list of benefits describing what we can do for you as a member, our businesses now know that we are here for them.  To take advantage of the tools we have to offer.  We began offering FREE office services to our members, taking advantage of the expertise in our office staff.  Helping many find and apply for PPP and business loans.

Members may now have FREE use of the community center for their meetings, training sessions, and get togethers. After all, it's their Center.  And we offer it free to our civic partners like the Kern County Fire Department for training.

For a couple of years we have wanted to transform part of the Office in our Visitors Center into a Gift Shop.  Well now our members can sell items inside of our visitor’s center.  And we are currently working on becoming a point of sale for permits needed to enjoy the many forms of recreation around the valley.

We have created Member discounts on Whiskey Flat Days Sponsorships, Vendor booths, Whitewater Wednesday rafting trips, Light pole advertising and discount tickets on Installation and Kick-off dinners.  A value above and beyond the cost of membership!

Even though our budgets were constrained, we did manage to do some improvements to one of our biggest tools.  By painting and fixing many crucial items at the recreation center we have attracted more events to our facility.  The effort has paid off as now our recreation property is sustaining itself with the cost of property tax and insurance.  In 2021 we will host 8 Rodeos in the McNally Arena.  Six of them support non-profit youth organizations.  Something we haven’t seen in a very long time. 

Sarge’s Wreaths 4 vets donated and maintains all the flags around the arena.  6 American flags, our nation’s military branch flags and the POW/MIA flag which line up across the back of the bleachers.  Our California state flag and the burial flag from the casket of Cpl Tom Weber, who is buried at the Bakersfield National Cemetery, fly high on our flag pole at every arena event. 

I would like to take a second to explain.  You see Tom Weber was a Vietnam vet and a dear friend of mine.  He was with me when we worked on the committee to obtain and build the Bakersfield National Cemetery.  He passed away shortly after it was built.  At that time I was working with the Under Secretary of Veteran Affairs as the President of the Support Committee, Tom had no family and at his service that flag was presented to me in his honor.  It may be only a personal thing for me, but I put up that flag in his honor at every event.

With the increase of events at our recreation center we are now able to offer Annual Arena Sponsorships which will also have a discount level for members.  Another great way to advertise your business to the thousands of attendees each year.   Those funds can now go directly to building and maintaining the facility.  By doing so we will attract more events with the hopes of having at least 10 -12 each year.

There was a tailgate concert last weekend in which Sarge’s Wreaths 4 Vets donated nearly $???? to place wreaths on our veteran headstones.  The first Friday of every month the Chamber partners with the Kern Valley Historical Society to host Drive-In movie nights in the parking lot that celebrate the history of movies in our valley.  By sharing those funds we show our commitment to helping maintain our local museum.

With the board’s dedication to our community, the bike park is staying clean and safe. It attracts hundreds of riders each week with individuals and the youth mountain biking club.  Thank You Brian for championing our Kern River Valley recreation.

By utilizing these tools we continue to bring business directly to the streets of our community. 

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In an act of preserving our valley’s history, we recently acquired the Scovern / McNally Barn in Lake Isabella.  The barn was built in 1929 and represents the history of 2 pioneering families in the Kern River Valley.  With the cooperation of the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Kern Valley Historical Society, the barn has been dismantled and fund raising efforts are underway in hope of reconstructing it on the West end of the McNally Arena.  This 3 level Kentucky style barn can become the jewel of the recreation center with a large deck for multi-purpose use.  It may not only showcase the barn's history but could be used for dinner parties, weddings, and a VIP area for events.  We want to thank Richard Rooney and his family for donating the barn, as well as everyone who helped remove it board by board.

 

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With all of the great things we have been able to accomplish this year, we still have many challenges ahead.  We must continue to find new ways to increase our value.  We must use that value to increase our membership.  Then promote our members with the tools we have to increase their business and success.   We must Champion our civic responsibilities, speaking out for our members and our community.

We must work harder than ever to reestablish the events we have long been known for.  These events are vitally important to our economy.  By doing so we can reestablish the budgets, increase our efforts of creating commerce for our members, increase advertisement outside of the valley and maintain our facilities.

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I want to thank our staff that we have structured into roles and responsibilities.  Lindsey has been doing a great job managing our financial accounts and legal paperwork.  It’s been a long road but she now has it all under control after countless hours of training and weekly TeamViewer calls from our accountant Jason.  Mickie came on this past year and continues to dive head first in our marketing plans.  Maintaining and promoting our businesses and events across all media platforms.  Both of these ladies are not afraid to learn whatever is needed to support our members and the chamber's success.  Thank you for being our administrative champions.

I want to thank the Board of Directors for their vision and commitment.  Without their individual idealisms we would become stagnant in our efforts.  You all have your unique expertise you bring to this community.  Unfortunately that passion and strength in many ways were not able to shine due to the cancellation of our many duties.  But now is the time to get our community, our businesses, our events, our economy and our responsibilities back on track.

In closing I ask our Members, if you have a passion, an expertise or you would like to help fulfill the need of our many challenges, step up to the plate and become a Champion.  Because everything we do is equally important.  Our Chamber and our community welcome your help.  Take ownership of the many positions needed, using your strengths, talents and passion to make all aspects of our Chamber a success. 

Thank You