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Leadership comes in many forms

Challenging times call for creativity, and they certainly call for leadership. If nothing else, Durango and its residents are known for the adage, when times get tough, the tough get going.

Have we had some tough times? Oh, sorry, that’s an understatement.

I’d just like to take a little bit of ink and do some shoutouts to people who have made leadership a priority during this past year-plus.

Of course, we have our Durango Rocks coming to you virtually at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, the chamber’s annual celebration of the best of the best. Order your complimentary tickets and the nominations are listed at www.durangobusiness.org. These community leaders and businesses have done their best to keep our economy going through the challenging 2020.

Once we were into the fray, not only did our nominees and recipients rise to the occasion to help, other creative ideas came along the way. I especially want to thank Karen Zink, who organized the first community effort for vaccinations and shout out to all the volunteers. In addition, San Juan Basin Public Health was at the front lines during the pandemic keeping our community updated.

To try to get as much business going as possible, a stellar committee of Pam Glasco, Emily Meisner, Dave Woodruff, Tim Walsworth and Mike French developed the 5 Star Committee, establishing safety guidelines for restaurants and merchants – ultimately helping community members feel safe about patronizing local establishments. Sort of a “we’ve gone above and beyond the protocols.”

The Business Improvement District and chamber (with sponsors Bank of Colorado and Morehart Murphy Regional Auto Center) just wrapped up the Spring Rewards program. It had a simple concept: shop at our local merchants, save and turn in your receipts to the BID (thank you, Tanya Clegg for tracking all the submissions) and be eligible to receive gift cards from local businesses. The program just wrapped up, and we were able to directly attribute $113,000 in local sales.

And we now have the “COVID Hall Pass.” Last spring and summer, we experimented with the installation of “bump-outs” downtown – extensions of businesses outside. Last year was a learning experience to see exactly how they’d work. We learned a lot, including making them more attractive, stable and, of course, COVID-19 friendly. Special thanks to the city and BID for their efforts and financing assistance.

At the chamber we are also looking ahead to be leaders of our community. In the middle of everything else, we’re adapting. We installed a camera in our chamber board room for in person/virtual meetings. As we emerge from our COVID-19 cocoons, we will keep our members and community informed about when we will begin to rent the board room to small groups.

As we learned over this last year, leaders will get us through the hard times. The chamber’s time-honored program, Leadership La Plata, is gearing up for its next year of exciting, experiential classes. The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. May 31. Every effort is made to build a diverse cadre of aspiring adult leaders because we need the perspectives of all. Visit www.leadershiplaplata.org for the application.

For now, continue to follow COVID-19 protocols, but as the weather warms up, and restrictions are eased, get out. Let’s get back to life and as I like to say, “mental floss every day!”

Jack Llewellyn is executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at jack@durangobusiness.org.