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Chamber cuts director’s job, citing finances


March 21, 2017

Bill Matthews

The Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce last week eliminated its executive director position.

“Katrina (Crabtree) is no longer with us,” said Chamber President Bill Matthews said. “The business model under which we were operating was no longer sustainable financially. It was the board’s decision to eliminate the position.”

“We are now going through an examination of where we are at as far as systems and processes.”

Crabtree, who has been involved with the chamber for about three years, 2½ as executive director, declined to comment.

She took over the position in the fall of 2015, after a period of large turnover on the board and in the executive director’s office, to find what she said was an “empty computer,” a dearth of records regarding board activities and an organization in trouble with the state and federal government over failure to make required financial reports.

The IRS had revoked the chamber’s tax exempt status on Aug. 11, 2014 after the organization failed to file its Form 990 three years in a row beginning with the 2011 Form 990.

Since then the chamber has submitted its 2015 Form 990 and Crabtree stated in January that it would have the 2016 Form 990 complete by deadline in April.

Matthews said he didn’t have details available about chamber finances and that they are under review by the board.

“We are now going through an examination of where we are at as far as systems and processes,” he said.

“We’ve had declining membership over the past couple of years.”

Revenue-producing events, including the annual Chamber Awards Banquet have declined.

That one made $7,000 to $8,000 last year, but this year, it’s slightly in the black, Matthews said.

The chamber also has faced declines in advertising partnerships, he said.

“We’ve taken a real hit on revenues,” although, he added, “our expenses haven’t gone up much.”

Matthews said the move is a call for action, for support,

“The chamber has moved from an organization that was driven by an executive director to a committee-driven board. That’s our vision going forward. This situation gives us the opportunity, having the Chamber of Commerce, the businesses, the community and the government come together to rebuild this organization that has the ability to make a difference in this community.

“Yes, it’s a bad situation, but it’s an opportunity to grow.”

Sometimes, a vineyard needs to be pruned back so it can grow, Matthews said. “We are pruning back the vine so it can grow.”

Matthews called for volunteers to join the chamber as it pursues its mission: To promote business, enhance economic and community development and to serve as a catalyst for improving the overall quality of life in the community.

The mission hasn’t changed, he said.

The current board includes Karla Hogan, Dave Jurney, Joe Graybill, Ian Rollins of Samaritan Health Services, Matthews, Bill Baitinger and Arlene Paschen.

“We have the capacity to grow to whatever we want to grow to,” Matthews said, and the board would like to add more people. “The board is going to be an active board. We have to be. As we build this board, we need to do it in a way to sustain it financially and organizationally.”

It will need to be a strong, active board willing to carry out the chamber’s mission, he said. While the mission hasn’t changed, “what underlies that mission, some of our goals, some our strategies, will change.”

It’s not clear how yet, Matthews said, but that’s what the board is working through right now at a time it needs more dues-paying members and resources.

“What a great opportunity this is,” Matthews said. “An opportunity to grow and develop from what we have.”


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