The City of Ely is no longer a member of the White Pine Chamber of Commerce. The City Council decided that they would no longer like to pay for membership with the chamber at their meeting inside the armory on June 25.
City Councilman Bruce Setterstrom said that he feels the Chamber of Commerce discriminates against non-chamber member businesses by excluding them from the “Chamber Bucks” program. The “Chamber Bucks” program, which was adopted by chamber Executive Director Wayne Cameron from the Elko Chamber of Commerce three years ago, allows member businesses to accept “chamber bucks” just as they would cash and then redeem the financial value owed to the business from the Chamber of Commerce. Setterstrom said that this “member’s only” benefit should be extended to all businesses, as some of the mines buy thousands of dollars worth of “bucks” at the end of the year as rewards to their employees and those can’t be spent at some local businesses.
“Until they open that program up to everyone and stop discriminating against local businesses, I don’t think the city should be a chamber member,” Setterstrom said.
The councilman said that he felt so strongly about the issue that he brought it up to the council during the discussion section of the agenda item and was able to convince the council to not renew their membership status.
Chamber board of director’s member Lorraine Clark said she doesn’t understand Setterstrom’s criticism and is frustrated to see the city stop supporting the chamber after having been a member since 1994, or before, though records don’t indicate such going father back.
“We are going to recommend any business in town, whether they are members or not. We’ll recommend members first, but that’s a benefit of membership,” Clark said.
She continued by saying that she feels the city loses credibility with local business owners and members of the community when it decides to stop supporting the Chamber of Commerce.
“One thing you have to understand with the chamber is that in a lot of places, especially bigger places, they split business and tourism. We aren’t that big and we don’t have enough people to do that so we handle both and the city loses credibility when they decide they don’t want to support that.”
Cameron said that he doesn’t understand Setterstrom’s argument that the “chamber bucks” is discriminatory. He pointed to Elko, the Chamber of Commerce that he got the original idea from, as an example.
“Our Chamber Bucks came from their Chamber Checks program. Their program is for members only. That is how chamber’s across the country do these programs, they come as a benefit of membership,” he said.
Cameron also listed off the many government agencies in the state of Nevada that are members of the chamber, including White Pine County and the Bureau of Land Management.
Those arguments did not sway Setterstrom or fellow city councilman Sam Hanson. Hanson, who agrees with Setterstrom’s opposition to the chamber said that “I don’t know why our chamber of commerce chooses to not support all local businesses but their chamber bucks issue is an example of how they don’t,” Hanson said.
The issue is expected to be placed back onto the agenda as several of the new members of the City Council want to revisit the issue and potentially vote to rejoin the chamber.