By Raiza Giorgi
The Solvang Chamber of Commerce has received a $250,000 two-year economic development contract with the city of Solvang to study businesses in and around the city, how to improve on what exists, and how to attract new and unique businesses.
“We will be doing a study to ensure we have the right businesses here and what we can do better as a chamber and city to ensure Solvang stays viable,” said Tracy Beard, executive director of the chamber.
Beard said the chamber will work over the next two years to expand the Solvang brand and increase shopping opportunities. They plan to use $50,000 of the city’s contract amount hire a consultant to help them identify areas of strengths and weaknesses.
“We want people to ‘Shop in the Heart of Santa Barbara County’ and (will be) creating more commercials and advertising for Solvang to broadcast in Los Angeles and San Francisco to attract clientele,” Beard said.
She said she is excited to work with Solvang retailers to create an experience for their stores that goes above and beyond just shopping.
“People love coming to Solvang to wine taste and make memories. We want to have more experiences for people so they leave here and tell all their friends and family to come,” Beard said.
In the last several years that Beard has been executive director, she said, she is proud that Solvang has expanded into having more entertainment for tourists such as music in the park series in the summer, hosting workshops for business owners to help them with window displays, attracting more Chinese visitors and creating translations for foreign tourists, and most recently a business relocation guide.
The chamber is also working on a new walking map of Solvang to direct people to various activities and businesses including museums, parks, and shopping opportunities.
“We have upgraded our Solvang 3rd Wednesday to include special menus at various restaurants around town and hopefully our locals will take advantage of this deal as well,” she said.
She said she has been busy meeting with business people to hear their opinions about what they would like for Solvang’s future.
“We really felt an impact when the Thomas Fire and Montecito mudslide shut down Highway 101. Business was dead, and we need to look at other business ventures to ensure that if it ever happens again we have other opportunities.
“I am really hoping that we get a place like Impact Hub, where small businesses can have a home base but don’t need a full office. There are so many people that work from home here in the valley but need places to host meetings and conferences,” Beard said.
“The chamber wants to host more workshops for local business owners on how to expand their market or online presence and other topics, like going green,” Beard said.
None of the grant funding is going to personnel expenses, she noted. All of it will be spent in increasing customer traffic and economic opportunities for Solvang chamber members.
For more information, contact Beard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-688-0701.