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New chamber ED watching for community opportunities

Rachelle Haven took the reins as executive director of the Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce in April during a strange year for a local economy that counts on tourism. 

Haven moved here 10 years ago, but has been coming here longer. 

"I grew up on the coast, but my dad is a 'Grand Coulee original,' and I still have many family members located here," she said. "I grew up spending my summers in the Coulee with my grandparents and fell in love with the area. I decided that Coulee was my home and moved here in January, 2010."

Haven worked at the Coulee Dam Federal Credit Union for over seven years before choosing to apply for the chamber position. The job opened up after Peggy Nevsimal left to take on the Electric City city clerk position. 

"I have always admired the community of this area," Haven wrote in an email interview. "I love the way the community comes together to help, celebrate, and love one another. I admire all the hard work Peggy Nevsimal has brought and did not want to lose the strides she has made to bring more to the area. I also have big visions for this town and wanted a position in the community I could bring those visions to life."

"My visions for the Chamber are to get more events added to the area," she said. "I would like to do movies in the park, a mother/son and father/daughter dance, and bring back Colorama royalty. I also want to work on getting a better relationship going with the tribe and bureau."

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a unique situation for a chamber of commerce executive director. 

"COVID-19 has affected the Chamber of Commerce because we fulfill a variety of roles in our area, including being an advocate for area businesses at the local, state and federal level, operating as a Visitor Information Center for our area, as the main marketer of tourism in the area, and as host for revenue generating festivals in the area," Haven said. "The community businesses rely on our festival consumer traffic to generate revenues to keep their doors open and without Chamber-hosted festivals, tourism traffic revenue is non-existent for both the Chamber and many businesses in our area."

The cancelation of Colorama didn't present a lot of work, Haven said, but "the loss of revenue for the community and chamber" from the cancelation is a big concern. 

The Fourth of July Festival of America isn't looking hopeful this year either, Haven said, but she did list "a modified Koulee Kids Fest, Market in the Park, a Seafood Broil, Run the Dam, and the Wine Auction," as events she is hopeful will happen.

"Harvest Fest is definitely still a possibility this year, and we are taking a look at a lot of different ways to make up for Colorama in Harvest Fest!" she said. 

Haven is an optimist. 

"So far my experience at the Chamber has been amazing with a serious side of uncertainty," she said. "Everyone has been so gracious in welcoming the newcomer. Coming into the chamber position right in the middle of COVID-19 has created a lot of questions as to what I will be able to do, which has put a damper on things. I am staying positive and looking for as many opportunities as I can to give to the community!"



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