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Alex Price, co-owner of the Mills Park Hotel, was recently voted into the role of chair of the Chamber of Commerce executive board. Price succeeds Mark Heise. (Submitted photo)

New Chamber of Commerce chair, upcoming events slated

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Just weeks after its beginning, 2024 is shaping up to be a banner year for Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce.

Already, the group has begun planning the village’s annual slate of big community events and occasions: two Street Fairs, the Fourth of July celebration, the blooming of the sunflower field on U.S. 68, and the villagewide commercial activity during the holiday season.

While those events are nothing new for the Chamber of Commerce, this year will be one of growth and renewal for the organization — especially with several new events planned for Chamber members.

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For starters, area resident and co-owner of the Mills Park Hotel Alex Price, has taken charge of the Chamber as its new board chair. Price, 34, succeeds Mark Heise, whose three-year term expired in December.

A self-described “type-A planner and organizer” and lover of behind-the-scenes work, Price has been with the Chamber, serving as the board’s treasurer, since early last year. With his husband Ryan Aubin, he’s run the downtown hotel since 2022, handling “the financial side” of the business and overseeing Ellie’s Restaurant.

“Mark did an amazing job,” Price told the News last week. “His heart was always in the right place and he was the kind of leader who jumped in without hesitation to do the right thing. I’m here to  do things more efficiently and with more people involved.”

Now at the helm of the Chamber’s board, Price said he aims to bring some of his financial know-how to the table — shoring up the organization’s growing budget, so that it can have a stronger presence in the community and do more to support its business members.

“I want to make sure we’re using our resources accordingly,” Price said. “The Chamber was almost at the point of dissolution in 2020 when COVID temporarily put an end to Street Fairs. Those are our number one revenue generators. Now, after building up our reserves and with Street Fairs returning, we’re about two thirds of the way to being in a good spot financially.”

Presently, the Chamber of Commerce is composed of 11 board members — local residents and businesses managers or owners. According to Price, there are 169 businesses that are members of the Chamber. Many of these members are brick-and-mortar Yellow Springs businesses, but some are itinerant vendors such as area food trucks and event merchants.

Since 2021, the Chamber has been without a full-time executive director, and as such, the board has taken an active — rather than a typically passive — role in conducting its operations. Price said that his board recently finished writing up a job description for the executive director role, and will hopefully have it filled this year.

But as Price told the News, the Chamber’s primary goal for 2024 is to focus more on supporting its 169 members.

“So, reinvesting in them and building up their trust in us,” he said.

To that end, the Chamber is launching several ongoing events to inform and bring business members together.

One is the “Lunch Local” series, which will take place the last Tuesday of each month at local restaurants. As Price described them, “Lunch Local” events will allow members to network, share resources or simply catch up with one another. Lunch locations at Yellow Springs eateries will change each month. 

The first outing of the monthly “Lunch Local” series will take place at Young’s Dairy on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at noon.

The next member-focused series of events the Chamber has planned are quarterly “Workshops with the Wizzes,” educational seminars, presentations and discussions aimed to help Chamber members fortify their bottom line and more.

The inaugural “Wiz” presentation will be given by the Southern Ohio Chamber Alliance, or SOCA, about the benefits of Chamber membership as well as insurance coverage SOCA provides to small businesses. Though a location and time have yet to be determined, the presentation will take place Thursday, Feb. 15.

According to a recent press release from the Chamber, future Workshops with the “Wizzes” topics include worker’s compensation, business growth, marketing and more.

“This is what we mean when we say we want to reinvest in our members,” Price said. “We can’t grow or expand until we’ve done more to help our members and bring them back into the fold — making sure they’re taken care of.”

As for the yearlong schedule of communitywide events, Price said that while they’re all still in the planning stages, area residents can expect them to look much the same as they have in the past — perhaps with some improvements. 

The Spring and Fall Street Fairs — both of which typically bring tens of thousands of visitors to Yellow Springs — are still scheduled for the second Saturdays of June and October. The Fourth of July parade and fireworks, which were previously overseen and funded by the International Order of Odd Fellows until last year, are also still on the docket.

Weather permitting, the sunflower field north of Yellow Springs will bloom later this summer, and the Chamber will again oversee visitation.

Then, when temperatures drop and the end-of-year holidays near, the Chamber will again flip the switch on the village holiday tree and support downtown businesses as they cater to all the holiday shoppers. Price also indicated that horse-and-carriage rides may return.

“Having a Chamber of Commerce that knows and understands what makes Yellow Springs so special, why people want to come here, is absolutely necessary to the survival of the village,” Price said. “A village of 3,500 people cannot provide for itself without an influx from the outside. It’s just not possible.”

Price added: “So, we’re here to help build this community up, by building up our businesses and bringing more people and their tax dollars to town.”

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