Despite some concern, Wahkiakum County commissioners on Tuesday named the Wahkiakum Chamber of Commerce the county's associate development organization (ADO).
The board signed a contract with the state Department of Commerce that will make the Chamber eligible for a variety of state economic development programs to be conducted in the area.
The Chamber succeeds the defunct Lower Columbia Economic Development Council. Because of loss of funding, the LCEDC and the Wahkiakum Community Foundation this past winter folded themselves into the Chamber, which took on additional responsibilities.
Richard Erickson, interim executive director for the Chamber, said the state legislature has maintained funding for ADO's despite having to make hefty cuts in state programs. The funding will allow the chamber to hire a permanent executive director this summer, he said.
"This is good news," he said. "It looked like that program could be on the chopping block."
The Chamber has accomplished a variety of tasks so far this year, he added.
The Chamber has worked to help two new businesses get established, the Skamokawa Resort and Sassy Chocolates. It has developed a new website, over 40 pages in size, that includes all sorts of information ranging from community events to economic development data.
"It's a work in progress," Erickson said.
It has also signed contracts with local governmental entities to provide economic development and other services.
In incorporating the Wahkiakum Community Foundation, the Chamber took over responsibility for the Julia Butler Hansen House with its collection of documents and papers of the former congresswoman and the collection of water color paintings by her mother, Maude Kimball Butler.
"The house has proved to be a welcoming place for people visiting our county," said Chamber Manager Lynda Gerlach. The Chamber has moved its office to the house, and Gerlach has given many tours this spring.
Penny Paulsen, a member of the Chamber's board of directors, added that the Chamber has been awarded a $1,000 grant for maintainning the house.
The vote to approve the contract with the Chamber as the ADO didn't come without debate.
Commissioner Blair Brady raised a suggestion he has made before, that the Wahkiakum/WSU Cooperative Extension Service could be named ADO, and state money would support that program, which has faced funding shortfalls in recent years.
"I think they (Extension) will be okay," said Commission Chair Lisa Marsyla. She has been taking part in a statewide committee to work with Washington State University on revamping Cooperative Extension. The discussions have indicated there will be continuing funding for the program, she said.
In the end, the motion to name the Chamber as the county's ADO passed unanimously.