By KATE LUDLOW
Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce President Valerie Zapien spoke to the Christian Business Leaders Association Tuesday about opportunities available to business members to utilize the Chamber’s services.
During the open question session, Mrs. Zapien said that the Chamber has the responsibility to its member businesses, and that the organization’s focus is not on attracting new business to the community.
CBLA President Jason Stanley questioned Mrs. Zapien on the Chamber’s informal Shop Local initiative. Stanley asked if the Chamber has a responsibility to promote only its members or all Liberty Hill businesses.
“We believe that the Shop Local thing is the (City of Liberty Hill’s) Economic Development Corporation’s role,” she responded. “We (the Chamber) have purchased the domain name (relating to shopping local) and are willing to give that to the EDC.”
Mrs. Zapien is a director on the EDC Board, which according to City records, has not met since Nov. 29, 2011.
Another CBLA member also questioned the Chamber’s decision to promote or recommend only Chamber members, saying, “It’s not that way in other towns. The Chambers work to promote all the businesses, the best businesses. You’re saying you won’t promote a business unless it’s a Chamber business. That’s just blackmail.”
Mrs. Zapien countered that memberships were affordable, and “it’s not fair to our Chamber businesses to promote businesses who aren’t members. That’s a member benefit.”
Mrs. Zapien was also asked what the Chamber was doing to attract new businesses to Liberty Hill.
“After conversations with the City Manager, we feel that with the infrastructure issues, we’re not able to attract new businesses,” she said. “If the water is not in place, they (new businesses) won’t come. We feel it is best to focus on building up what is currently here.”
Mrs. Zapien described the benefits to Chamber members.
“Membership is a participatory sport, and there is only success through participation,” she said.
Currently, 65 businesses in and around Liberty Hill are members of the Chamber, and Zapien said the goal is 100.