CALEXICO — While one Calexico Chamber of Commerce board member characterized the financial state of the chamber as “bad,” the organization’s longtime leader downplayed the situation recently.
“I think all chambers are
struggling. That’s just how it is now,” said Hildy Carrillo, executive
director, during an interview with this newspaper on Nov. 20.
Carrillo acknowledged the
economy in the city is difficult, and said, “we’re having a little bit of a
hard time,” but she maintained the chamber is making it work with a board of
directors that pitches in, volunteers its time to staff events and donates to
the chamber’s efforts when needed.
frequently posts photos of its activities and meetings on social media.
But chamber board member
Louis Wong maintained times are tough.
“Right now, we don’t have
funding from the city of Calexico and membership is down and dues are down,”
Wong, the owner of Yum Yum Chinese Food, said during a Nov. 21 interview.
“When business is good,
everybody’s chipping in,” he said, adding more businesses are now shying away
from chamber events.
Wong added, “We just hope
we have more new businesses come in. … We need them to be there.”
Carrillo agreed that it
is an organization that depends on the dues of its paying members for most of
its revenue, but she would say no more on that subject.
However, she did point
out the city of Calexico has not contributed to the chamber as much since
former Gov. Jerry Brown shut down state redevelopment agencies in 2012.
The city now pays only an
annual membership fee, like other chamber members.
City Manager David Dale
said during a Nov. 21 interview the city pays the chamber $5,000 a year in
membership fees and provides it with its office space, a building at 1100
Imperial Ave., free of charge.
The city owns the
approximately 1,600-square-foot building, but Dale said the chamber pays all
its own utilities.
“We’d like to get them a
new building,” Dale said, but added there’s no way to do that at the moment. He
said the aging chamber building was constructed sometime in the 1970s.
Dale added the city also
used to pay the chamber $10,000 every year to stage the Calexico Christmas
Parade, but with the city looking at any way it can cut costs, it took the work
back in-house last year. Dale said Calexico City Council Member Lewis Pacheco
took it on himself last year to solicit donations to put on the parade and
ended up raising the $10,000 needed to stage the event.
Pacheco is doing it again
this year, Dale said.
complaining. She noted she understands the need to cut expenses.
“The chamber is the last
thing on the list,” Carrillo said, referring to when agencies look to make
contributions. “That’s why we do it (chamber activities) by volunteering, donating,
everybody doing their part.”
Carrillo later did not
immediately return phone calls seeking answers to additional questions.
Members of the Calexico
City Council had differing sentiments when it comes to the chamber’s struggles.
Mayor Pro Tem David Romero
said he heard the chamber was struggling “a bit,” but he thinks the
organization needs to do more to help itself, including being more active and “being
on top of every single company that opens in the city.”
While Wong said he thinks
more businesses are closing, Romero said he believes the city is seeing new
businesses begin to open again.
“There’s a lack of
communication” with the chamber, Romero said during a Nov. 21 interview.
He criticized the chamber
for not being in attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of Southern
California retailer Treasure Hunt, which opened in the former Vons grocery
store location off West Second Street on Nov. 15.
City officials think
Treasure Hunt’s opening is a big win for the area. Calexico beat out El Centro
for the store, Dale told the council during his city manager’s report at the
Nov. 20 council meeting. He also told the council he believes the new store
will replace the sales tax lost in the city by the closures of Toys R Us and JC
Calexico Mayor Bill
Hodge, on the other hand, looks on the chamber’s situation a bit more
“In a general sense,
they’ve been struggling. I think it’s a misfortune that the city has cut ties
in a sense in not helping the chamber,” Hodge said Nov. 25.
Hodge’s only criticism is
he would like to see the chamber have more of a balance between the parties and
events the organization stages, such as its annual Mariachi Sin Fronteras festival
and Lava Lamp awards dinner, with more business retention and promotion
Still, Hodge said, “From
my perspective, I’d like the city, as we become more solvent, that we have a
financial tie with the chamber again.”