By LAURA ENDERSON
Special to the SWT
The Radford Chamber of Commerce is feeling the impacts of the economic downturn.
On Feb. 18, the chamber reduced its office hours to part-time. Although the hours are not listed on the office’s voicemail, callers are given the number to the Radford Visitor’s Center for obtaining further information about the area.
“Because of the economic downturn, we have shortened the office hours,” said Wally Galla, Chamber of Commerce president.
The group also laid off Executive Director Michelle Linkous on Friday due to economic troubles, although she is still working as a volunteer.
“I have been laid off until funds come in,” Linkous said. “But the office is staying open part time and hopefully this is a temporary situation.”
The office is currently being run by volunteers and interns. According to Galla, the layoff is only temporary until the chamber can become financially stable again.
“Right now we are just doing what we can to stay open and we’re very positive and we think that this is temporary,” Linkous said.
Linkous was laid off back in 2010, when the chamber had prior economic troubles after losing 50 members the year before. The chamber then implemented a strategic plan that included 11 goals for improvement and added new members.
The chamber, which was not available for comment, was incorporated in 1944 as a nonprofit speaker for the the community and area businesses. Today the group has around 300 members.
“The chamber helps act as a liaison between a business and the community,” said John Long, owner of Brewin’ Around. “They put out articles, they do their ribbon cutting, they sometimes have information that they pass on through different avenues, fliers. It’s a way for the community to know what’s going on with the local businesses.”
To Laura Lamoureux, owner of Lamour’s on Main Street, Radford, Linkous was a great help for her business, and she hopes to see her come back soon.
“Michelle has done a phenomenal job. She’s done more for me, for my business than any other organization in this area,” said Lamoureux, who has been a member of the chamber for eight years. “She lets me know about what’s going on in the area, so I can hop on the bandwagon if it’s something that I feel would benefit the store. She’s been very, very helpful to me. I’d hate to see that, I was just sick when I heard the news.”
With the chamber operating part-time, Lamoureux is worried about being able to contact someone when she has questions now that there isn’t anyone in particular representing local businesses.
Long, on the other hand, still feels that the chamber should be able to handle going part-time without sacrificing individual attention for businesses and, he said, they are still providing extra help to local businesses.
“If you need them, and they’re open 10 hours a week, you just find them during those 10 hours,” Long said.
Because 70 percent of Lamour’s business comes from Radford University, Lamoureux is worried what will happen without Linkous’ influence on campus, especially during club fair in the fall.
“There’s like 4,000 to 5,000 kids that come through there. I can’t tell you how many kids have told me, ‘I met you at club fair,’” Lamoureux said. “It kind of frightens me with a thing like that, that we might not be able to participate in, because we don’t have anyone representing us.”
For Lamoureux, she said Main Street Radford just doesn’t provide her with the campus coverage that she needs, including club fair, because that’s a chamber member only event.
The chamber provides a similar service to the area and local businesses as Main Street Radford, but Long doesn’t consider them competition.
“They’re both trying to help out businesses and the community,” Long said.