Littleton's business community has a new voice.
The Littleton Business Chamber, a project of a group of local business owners, held its inaugural meeting on Sept. 21, kicking off what members hope will be a conduit between the city's businesses …
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Littleton Business Chamber
Next open meeting: 5:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at Platte River Bar & Grill, 5995 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton
Contact: President Steve Werges, 720-517-5519 or email@example.com
• $100 for individuals
• $250 for small businesses
• $495 for large businesses
Members must be located in or own property in Littleton.
Littleton Business Chamber board member Pat Dunahay said the new group would like to offer a different perspective to council than Sunshine, a community watchdog and discussion group that is often involved in local affairs.
“We feel like they're a special interest for anti-development, for less density,” Dunahay said. “We respect that position, though. We don't want to be adversarial against them.”
Steve Werges, the board's president, echoed Dunahay.
“They were kind of monopolizing the time of council, and nobody was offering competing viewpoints,” Werges said. “I'm not trying to point fingers. I don't want the Sunshine people to feel targeted. Our goal is to provide a more positive, proactive environment. It's not the most positive environment. There needs to be more nurturing dialogue going on.”
Carol Brzeczek, a community activist often associated with Sunshine who is running for an at-large seat on city council, called Werges' and Dunahay's characterizations misguided.
“Sunshine is just one of a few groups organized that provides an opportunity for citizens to meet and discuss local issues,” Brzeczek said in an email. “Meetings are open and not limited to any sort of membership, which means there's a wide variety of opinions held by the people attending. One of the newly formed Chamber's goals may prove to be elusive since Sunshine is anything but a unified voice and for that reason has never had a spokesperson to address council as Sunshine.”
— David Gilbert
The Littleton Business Chamber, a project of a group of local business owners, held its inaugural meeting on Sept. 21, kicking off what members hope will be a conduit between the city's businesses and government.
"A bunch of business guys and myself feel like we need a stronger voice for business in Littleton," said Pat Dunahay, owner of PDA Roadgear and one of the group's founders. "We perceived a gap in representation, and we're trying to fill it."
The chamber currently has a roster of 15 businesses, with commitments from 15 more, and 15-20 individual memberships, according to Dunahay. The organization hopes to have 40 businesses by the end of the year. Membership is limited to businesses, business owners and landowners inside Littleton city limits.
The chamber is the brainchild of Steve Werges, property manager and owner of Campfire Brookie Press; Dunahay, who is also a SouthPark Owners Association board member; Kal Murib, owner of Murib Properties; Keith Taylor, owner of Jazz Car Wash; and Chad Hemmat, principal partner of the Anderson Hemmat law firm. They also are on the chamber's board, which is rounded out by Lee Renner, owner of Renner Sports Surfaces, and Martha Stevenson, founder of MattiMedia Group.
Currently, many Littleton businesses are members of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, which covers 18 cities and parts of four counties. Several dozen are members of the Historic Downtown Littleton Merchants Association, which covers the several blocks around Main Street. Dunahay said that left a void when it comes to representation for businesses citywide.
“South Metro is representing a lot of cities,” Dunahay said. “We need to stay competitive with Highlands Ranch and Greenwood Village and Centennial and Englewood, and try to get people to come here. We're trying to make Littleton a strong business environment.”
The group's website, littletonbusinesschamber.org, says the chamber's mission is to “serve as the principal representative of businesses in our market area, contribute to the success and prosperity of our members, and promote economic and civic interests of the community.”
Among the group's first projects will be to throw their weight behind the city's two TABOR-related ballot questions this fall, Werges said. One of the questions, Ballot Issue 2C, will ask voters to allow the city to keep a revenue surplus to spend on road repairs rather than refunding the money to taxpayers, and the other, Ballot Issue 2D, asks voters to ratchet up the city's revenue cap so they can collect more in the future before a refund is triggered.
“Good streets will help us have good access for businesses,” Werges said. “That's important. Also, we are under the impression that the city is looking at financial troubles coming up, and these are measures that will help the city alleviate those troubles. We want to help the city, and one of the primary tools in our toolbox is marketing.”
Werges, the board's president, said the chamber also wants to help the city revise what it calls an outdated comprehensive plan in order to reflect the current pace and nature of development.
“Change is coming to our city like a freight train, and if we don't have people in place to make sure we're doing smart development, and keep the city vibrant and moving forward, it'll run over us,” Werges said.
Dunahay said the chamber would also like to explore instituting a lodging tax — the city currently has none. He said they would also like to raise funds for the Littleton Police Department's K-9 unit.
“We're a young organization,” Dunahay said. “These ideas will get more fleshed out down the line.”
The chamber could be a useful partner, said City Manager Mark Relph.
“I can see them being an asset in all sorts of issues,” Relph said. “It's a unified voice so we have a clear line of communication between the city and the business community. We haven't had that, and it's been a void. We probably won't agree all the time, but we like to hear the perspectives shared by businesses.”
Relph said he hopes to work with the chamber to address the city's financial concerns.
“We've got real challenges in our capital fund,” Relph said. “We're trying to make sure we're doing everything we can to control expenditures. We'll explore with council how to come up with a dedicated revenue source. We hope the chamber can be a resource there.”
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