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Chamber finds a new home


The Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce has outgrown its old home at the southwest corner of Main Street and State Route 260, moving its administrative offices and visitor center to the more spacious 2,500-square-foot office space at 849 Cove Parkway.

Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christian Oliva del Rio said the chamber and visitor center had been stuffed into the under-1,000-square-foot building at the foot of the Home Depot parking lot for far too long.

“We outgrew that building over 20 years ago,” del Rio said, adding that the size of the building was not the only factor.

Access presented safety issues, especially for those out-of-towners unfamiliar with the busy intersection. Not to mention the skunks.

That’s right: Occasionally, one couldn’t help notice the distinctive smell of the animals, both inside and outside the building. Inconvenience and pesky pests aside, the property certainly occupied a visible location — one that attracted more than a few offers from developers over the years.

The chamber owns two adjacent lots, one of which houses the old chamber and another that stands vacant south of the building.

A decade ago, Starbucks approached the chamber with a potential offer. Talks of Starbucks purchasing the properties fell through when the recession hit in 2008, but when another developer approached the chamber recently both del Rio and the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors took the bait.

Del Rio said the chamber is close to firming up the deal for purchase, though he does not yet know what project the developer intends to put at the corner. Whatever occurs with that property, the chamber has completed its relocation and as of July 7 was open for business, having signed a one-year lease at 849 Cove Parkway.

“That gives us enough time to see if it’s going to work or not,” del Rio said, admitting that the location is more out of the way than the chamber’s old home. “There’s been a lot of discussion about increasing traffic down here [but] we’re pretty confident people will be able to find us .... Permanent signage isn’t even up, but people are already popping in.”

According to del Rio, the chamber is working with the city of Cottonwood and the Arizona Department of Transportation to change existing roadway signage to direct car traffic toward the new location. Potentially, del Rio added, the chamber would consider moving the visitor center, but the hope is that the cleaner and more modern location will house both the administrative offices and the volunteer-driven visitor center.

Del Rio, who took over for longtime president and CEO Lana Tolleson a year ago after working nine years as the chamber’s office manager, said he is excited about the direction the chamber board is letting him move. Traditionally, the chamber has focused on tourism.

“Tourism continues to be our driving force with the wine industry [and] we’ve not skipped a beat with tourism since Lana left,” del Rio said, but added that increasing and sustaining the community’s economic opportunities are typically major features of chambers of commerce.

“I want to see us more involved in economic and community development.”

The first mixer at the chamber’s new location takes place Thursday, July 20, from 6 to 8 p.m. The cost is $8 to chamber members, $10 for nonmembers.

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