By Michael Howell
As a Hamilton City Councilor and owner of a downtown business – The Paper Clip – you would think that Al Mitchell had enough to do. Not true. So now he has taken on another job as interim Director of the Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce, following the departure of previous director Rick O’Brien.
“It’s been an interesting six weeks,” said Mitchell. “I’ve been visiting with lots of folks.” He said he has visited with people in Darby and Stevensville, and has also already been to an association meeting in Great Falls.
Mitchell said that the Chamber has suffered for a number of years from the perception that it is a Hamilton Chamber rather than a Bitterroot Chamber. He said one of his aims is to change that perception completely, thus his trips to Darby and Stevensville.
“We are linked by the valley floor and by the whole economy,” said Mitchell. He said the valley’s communities should be working together for their shared economic benefit.
“We all have common interests and should be working together on common goals,” he said.
Mitchell said the lagging economy has resulted in a drop in membership and he aims to turn that around as well.
“I want to see the Chamber grow,” he said. “There is strength in numbers.”
Mitchell said the Chamber Board had made the decision to steer clear of political issues and endorsements.
“But we will provide information to folks dealing with legislative issues that may face us,” he said. “We will let people know the facts without taking sides.”
Mitchell said that he is only working part time and board members are jumping in to help take up any slack.
Mitchell is eager to see the Chamber’s various activities re-energized. The Chamber runs a business referral service for members and works with Glacier Country to boost tourism. It sponsors the Dream Big Award and community leadership training and has a community ambassador program. One of the Chamber’s biggest events is the Brew Fest, which will take place on July 28th in downtown Hamilton.