A professional services agreement that allocated city funds to the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce to help revitalize the business organization has been effective, City Councilmembers agreed on Monday. And they plan to negotiate another contract for next year.
“I maintain it’s been a win-win for the city,” Vice Mayor Shawn Marshall said Monday after listening to a six-month update by Linn Walsh, Assistant to the City Manager.
The $39,392 professional services agreement was signed in September 2012, and formalized many existing arrangements with the city, as well as setting clear goals and benchmarks to ensure the chamber stays on track in its revitalization efforts.
Increasing membership by at least 25 percent was a significant milestone, and Executive Director Daniel Escalzo said the chamber has surpassed expectations by growing from 222 to 289 members, which is an increase of about 30 percent. But it once had the support of more than 600 businesses in its heyday.
“We’d like to see a continued increase in membership,” said Mayor Andy Berman. “There’s probably 3,000 plus business licenses in Mill Valley.”
Specifically, the professional services agreement says the chamber will continue to receive in-kind use of its office in the city-owned Depot building, manage the Employee Parking Program and revenue from it, and receive $15,000 for “business “vitality services” which includes hosting a holiday event such as Winterfest, supporting beautification programs, and increasing the city’s social media presence.
As the chamber continues to grow, City Councilman Ken Wachtel asked if there would be a point where the $15,000 from the city wasn’t necessary. But 30 percent more members also requires 30 percent more support and deliverables for those members, Escalzo said.
“I don’t foresee us not needing that money,” he said.
Another important change was the addition of a “Statellite Visitor Center” to provide information for visitors when the chamber office is closed on weekends and after-hours. The contract originally called for rotating the center to a different business every six months, but it’s been successful at All Wrapped Up, and will likely remain there if no other businesses show interest.
“I agreed that made sense,” Walsh said, adding that All Wrapped Up appreciates the additional foot traffic.
Escalzo said that anecdotally the satellite center has been effective, but didn’t have specifics when asked how many visitors were actually using it on the weekends.
“The traffic there is good,” he said. “I haven’t’ had time to produce hard numbers but we can probably do that.”
Since the agreement, the chamber has also been promoting the Resident Shopper Vehicle Permit program, better marketing Mill Valley by placing more than 30 positive articles in the media, and building up the Enjoy Mill Valley Facebook page which is now up to 1,167 likes, Walsh said in her report to the Council.
Additionally, the chamber has highlighted members for city committees and advisory boards, along with providing business expertise and taking positions on issues that impact the business community – which is something the Council asked for after the chamber failed to voice an opinion regarding the unsuccessful attempt to open a Subway restaurant at 29 Miller Ave.
“Overall,” Walsh said, “they’re doing a great job and I see a successful completion of this project.”
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