‘Imagine with me’: A vision for building strong community

by Justin Aufdermauer
Executive Director

I heard one time from an industry colleague, “Everything you touch turns to gold” and I didn’t know how to respond. While it’s not 100% accurate, it is reflective of the programs and stability of the Chamber. What they — and many people looking in — don’t see is that most everything started out with having a vision and a hope. Some of those visions have taken years to bring to life, so naturally when they unfold, they do so in a thoughtful and successful way. How could it not when you have spent years thinking of the positive and negatives of every move?

Moving in to 2022 soon, I thought it would be fun to talk about a couple ideas that are in that visioning stage. These are ideas that are in various stages but, nonetheless, I have no doubt will happen.

Imagine this with me a countywide Chamber of Commerce. Sure, we have programs that support businesses throughout Tillamook County, and we never shy away from opportunities to help. In fact, 30% of our membership is outside of the City of Tillamook. Here is what I mean by a true countywide chamber. I envision a time when we have the resources to fund active staff positions in north, mid, central and south county. Those staff members can build each community’s capacity in the ways that are both unique to those regions, but also in a way that brings the county together as a whole. I see a time when all of our communities and local businesses can work together to make ideas come time life. A time when local government is truly investing in building stronger communities where businesses can thrive.

This is my vision for a countywide Chamber. There have been and will continue to be conversations of how to make it happen. Some will disagree and some will root us on – at the end of the day, I believe it is going to happen, and we have spent enough time on the vision that it will be a game changer for our county when it does.

Next, I want you to imagine our community with a non-profit resource that can help build community by bringing the passions of local residents and businesses to life. That is us, now — sort of. For the past several years I have held on to the vision of a community foundation, a foundation that is there for the community and not any one direct cause or organization. In 2021 the Chamber board of directors moved it to a priority project in our strategic plan and approved funding to get it started. I wasted no time and am proud to let you know today that we have successfully established the Tillamook Chamber Community Foundation, a 501(c)3 public charity organization. This new non-profit is tied to the Chamber and will be staffed by the Chamber staff, but it has at-large board members and will have the flexibility for a much broader community focus. I am excited about the opportunities this provides for not only outside grant funding coming to our community, but also the opportunity for our citizens and businesses to be able to make a tax-deductible financial pledge towards project that they feel strongly about.

We are now entering the planning phases with community partners of exactly what our first initiatives look like, but I assure you there are some great things coming and I look forward to announcing that in the coming months.

As the saying goes, the sum is only as good as it parts. If you have any thoughts, constructive criticism or support for our vision, please feel free to reach out to me at justin@tillamookchamber.org or 503-842-7525. And I would be remiss not to take this opportunity to request that if you are looking to make a local year-end charitable contribution, I would love for you to consider the Tillamook Chamber Community Foundation.