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Mineral County Chamber reboots with first meeting

by MONTE TURNER
Mineral Independent | November 8, 2023 12:00 AM

About 24 business owners, community members, retired residents and a few new faces attended a recent meeting of the Mineral County Chamber of Commerce, which is reopening after years of dormancy.

“Things like that happen. There’s an ebb and flow to most everything and that holds true with organizations like this one,” said Drew Hanson, who has taken the reins of the county’s business advocacy organization.

“My position is the interim president as we are giving this launch 90-days to get our feet under us by having an election for administrative positions and tactical discussions of where we are today,” he explained. “People that are really interested and passionate about this are those who I’d like to see step up and take what we’re starting right now by putting their name on the nomination list and run with it. Or, someone not here that you know would be a good candidate. I feel we have the community members willing and capable of doing this right now,” Hanson said. 

Hanson said he will be there to advise, make calls, knock on doors and whatever is needed, but his job has him traveling and prior commitments have his time stretched too thin. 

The president, vice president and secretary need to be committed to putting some elbow grease into this for the first six months. Hanson also shared that invoices to prior members to rejoin were mailed out and within four days, about 100 responded with their dues. This, he stated, is a clear signal that people want to have the Mineral County Chamber of Commerce reopen its doors.

Four years ago next month, Chris and Krystle Darlow purchased Castles Market from Ken and Cathy Kuhl and have been strong community supporters through Darlow’s Quality Foods. 

“I think it’s much needed,” said Chris when asked if the reopening of the chamber will enhance the county. “To have a formal organization that plans events to benefit the area with the local population in mind, but also bring in new dollars is positive for everyone. And a get-together place for all of the businesses is going to be beneficial, and fun,” he said. 

“This is good for everyone because of the potential we have, and the area deserves more,” Krystle smiled.

Hanson has been researching this project for a couple of years and explained what the look and feel of chambers of commerce look like today. 

“The way we do business in Montana is different,” he said. 

There are a few URL websites for the chamber of commerce that overlap with stagnant information so Hanson is creating one that will be controlled internally. For now, he wants everyone to communicate via Facebook. 

He shared traffic numbers on I-90, how the dollars are coming into Montana and how long they stay, the upcoming need of amenities, what predictions are if/when interest rates drop for more people moving here and what services they will need. 

Whatever the mission statement was, it is now going to be forward-looking and community centered.

The meeting was held inside Riverside Soups & Sandz in the old Superior School, where the new owners of the building were introduced. Wade Gooden and his wife, Heather, along with Mark and Lori Quinn, all from Frenchtown, have a couple of other business ventures together, and being the proprietors of the Old Supererior School is their newest investment. 

“Just in the fact that we’re both in the world of construction and when we see old buildings like this, we see if it makes sense for an opportunity to help communities by investing,” Wade Gooden explained. 

The property has been on and off the market for years but not on their radar. 

“I came out here to look at another project and inquired about it. We talked to the owners and it wasn’t on the market at the time. We told them what we wanted to do and our vision and they sold it to us,” Gooden said. 

There aren’t concrete plans, yet, but to have it be a community-focused building is a given. At the top of the list is creating a venue area, a restaurant, updating the gymnasium for different activities, VRBO’s (Vacation Rental by Owner) for the expanding tourist and business growth they all feel is coming. 

“With all of the hiking into the mountain lakes and fishing and mountain biking, it’s already a popular place and it is going to become a more and more recreation-oriented place to visit,” shared Mark Quinn. 

“No, we’re excited. And figure that this is one school we can’t get kicked out of!”, laughed Gooden. 

George and Liz Gupton were in attendance and very happy for the new owners, and even happier that they sold the property to community-focused investors.

Hanson is looking for motivated and reliable people to get the Mineral County Chamber of Commerce back on its feet and become a viable partner in the county. 

People do not have to be a business owner, but a recommitment of former members and organizations is a critical component. 

The reboot is going to bring the chamber to a new level with social media, upscale marketing, and energy. Nonprofit organizations are not only welcome but needed. 

New residents who have home-based occupations can be of help with strategic advice on building this post-Covid culture that has changed the course of commerce.

Hanson is best reached at drew@mcrecclub.org.