On February 18, Amador County Sheriff Gary Redman swore in the new Amador County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, including new president Matt Toma. Toma is the owner of Toma and Associates, which has provided engineering, surveying, and planning services primarily to Amador County since 1969.
Toma, who served on the Chamber board last year, succeeds Rich Hoffman as president. I spoke with Toma a couple of weeks ago about the business climate in Amador County as well as plans for the Chamber in 2022.
It’s not surprising that Toma is president of the Chamber because Chamber participation runs in the family. “My father was a past Chamber member and president, and was very active in Amador County business over the years,” Toma explained. “So, that spurred me to get involved in the Chamber five or six years ago now.” Last year, Toma served on the Executive Committee, which consists of five members including the president.
Toma’s plans for the Chamber in 2022 include getting back to normal. “Last year, we were able to have a handful of our monthly mixers last year when the COVID numbers were down and the health department was allowing that type of stuff,” he said. “So, we were kind of getting quasi-back to normal even though we weren’t able to do a lot of outreach with businesses and the public.”
As part of getting back to normal, Toma said that the Chamber has been spending the past month preparing. “We have all our committees formed for mixers, businessperson of the year, the Acorn Award, and some other outreach committees we’re trying to form to help small businesses with funding mechanisms to HR to you name it,” he noted.
Two in One
What’s more, the Chamber doesn’t just have one new executive director, but two. “In the past, we’ve had one person in that position, and it worked well for a while,” Toma said. He added that the Chamber has lost two executive directors in the past two years. Jamie Armstrong took a job in Calaveras County and then Joey Guidi left to devote more time to his family’s radio station, KVGC.
The solution, Toma said, was to split the position. “The Chamber now has ‘front of the house’ and ‘back of the house’ positions, he explained. “The front of the house person deals with the public and helps with the mixers. The back of the house person is more of an office manager that handles outreach, billings, and makes sure everyone gets the paperwork they need.” So, Toma concluded, “the two people work together to move the Chamber forward.”
The Chamber also decided to move its headquarters…again. Last year, the Chamber moved into their old headquarters at 115 Main Street in Jackson. Early this year, the Chamber Board decided to move into the building behind 115 Main—that is, in the two-story building at 40 North Highway 49/88. This building also houses The Mountain Merchant newspaper and several professional offices and is across the highway from Mel and Faye’s Diner.
“The thought was to move there because the office has highway frontage,” Toma said, “and we thought it might be a better walk-in place with better visibility.” He added that though it’s hard to see where the office is now, Kam Merzlak is working on the new Chamber outdoor signage as of this writing.
Drawing a New Map
In the meantime, the Chamber is meeting in one of the conference rooms at the county administration building on Court Street in Jackson. “We meet on the third Friday of every month, and the county meeting room lets us spread out and has great Zoom capabilities,” Toma said. He noted that from those meetings, the sense of the Board is to get back on track. “We’ve been laying low the past two or three years, so we definitely want to do more community and business outreach,” he added.
What does that mean for an organization with more than 300 members? “The goal is to reach out to businesses to ask what the Chamber can do to help you,” Toma said, “whether it’s with business operations, tourism, events, or whatever.” To help with that, the Chamber has put together a new committee to put together an information roadmap to e-mail to all Chamber members. “This roadmap will know what the Chamber can do for them including advertising, HR, financing, and that kind of stuff,” Toma said, “and we’ll hopefully have that by the end of March.”
Speaking of information, one pet peeve that Toma has from being a member of other local clubs is that there isn’t a master calendar of upcoming events so clubs and organizations can plan upcoming events without any conflicts. So, Toma is having Chamber staff create that master calendar so that people know what’s going on. “There’s nothing worse than having three crab feeds on the same night,” he said. “That’s something simple we can do and we’re working on that.”
The Chamber is currently producing its spring events including the traditional Golden Acorn event that Toma said, “shows the results of a good business who’s doing right in our community.” What’s more, the March mixer is scheduled for this Wednesday, March 9, at the Kiota Inn in Sutter Creek. The Kiota Inn is located at 271 Hanford Street and used to be the Days Inn before it was purchased and extensively renovated. The mixer will start at 5:30 p.m.
How Do You Reach the Chamber?
There are several ways to get information about the Chamber, Toma said. “Give the Chamber a call at 209-223-0350 right now and talk to our ‘back of the house’ executive director, Julie Lyman.”
You can also visit Lyman at the new Chamber office by parking in the municipal parking lot across Highway 49 (behind Mel and Faye’s Diner) or from the El Dorado Savings Bank parking lot next door. The office is open on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Beyond that, Toma said, “The best way to get information is to get on the Chamber’s e-mail list. And if you’re not a member, get on the Chamber website today and join us.”
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