The Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce announced Feb. 7 that it had undertaken its biggest overhaul in decades, bringing a “new vision” to one of the largest and oldest business organizations in the Tri-Counties.
Outgoing Chair Janet Garufis, president of Montecito Bank & Trust, said she and her board faced a “daunting task” a year ago when longtime President Steve Cushman and key staffer Marcia Reed announced their departure.
She said the chamber undertook a “transformational change” that began with a “new vision for the chamber” as described in a survey of members and community leaders. The chamber regrouped around the idea of becoming the “voice of business for the region,” and bringing in new technology to deliver a wider range of services for members.
Incoming Chair Scott Hadley, managing partner at Bartlett Pringle & Wolf, said the new vision includes bringing in more non-dues income and giving the group’s government relations effort an overhaul.
Attorney Steve Amerikaner, who headed the new government relations effort, said the new program would launch with a March 13 debate aimed at helping to understand the conflict between members of the Montecito Association and CalTrans over the proposed widening of Highway 101 through the upscale village.
Hadley said the Chamber will be unveiling a kiosk at the Santa Barbara airport and that its visitor’s center will be hosting the estimated 24 cruise ships that will land in Santa Barbara this year.
The chamber presented its annual Businessman and Woman of the Year awards, which went to Pete Jordano and Joanne Funari, respectively. “The Italians are taking over,” jested Jordano from the podium.
One major piece of unfinished business for the chamber is the selection of a permanent replacement for Cushman. Interim President Zoe Taylor has won plaudits for her even-handed approach to a difficult job, but Hadley and others did not tip their hand about who was in the running to take over permanently.
About 300 attended the event at the Coral Casino at the Four Seasons Biltmore.