Chamber chairman hopeful for future
By Emily Sorensen
Despite the current dark times the Poway Chamber of Commerce is going through, new board chairman Jim Crute is looking ahead with hope.
Crute, the owner of Lightning Brewery in Poway, is a six-year member of the Chamber of Commerce. A former biotech executive with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, Crute spent almost 25 years home brewing beer before opening Lightning Brewery, which has won 30 awards in six years.
Most recently, their craft beer Old Tempestuous Ale won Best of Show at the California State Fair Commercial Brewing Competition, beating 475 other entries from 60 state breweries including Karl Strauss, Island Brewing and Pyramid. Crute also serves on the board of the San Diego Brewers Guild, and still manages to find time to attend his local QUAFF homebrew club’s meetings, as well as work on a book about the biochemical basis of craft beer brewing and enjoyment.
Though Crute does not reside in Poway, he stresses his involvement in local Poway businesses.
“I’m involved in business in Poway because I’m not a carpetbagger,” said Crute. “Sprouts [in Poway] carries our beer, and that’s where I grocery shop.” Crute said that he felt responsibility to the community of Poway, and wanted to help increase business in the community.
This mind-set is being carried over to the chamber’s search for a new CEO after the departure of longtime president and CEO Luann Hulsizer in May. “We’re actively recruiting a replacement,” said Crute, who added they’re hoping to find a new CEO in the next month, and already have a few in mind.
“We want to hire the right person who can connect with the community,” said Crute. “We want them to have business in Poway, and continue to do business in Poway. We want you to be able to see them at the grocery store and driving around town.” Crute hopes to begin interviewing candidates soon, and also confirmed that a headhunting firm was not used to recruit candidates, due to cost.
Crute was also generally positive on the financial future of the Chamber of Commerce, which is reported to be suffering financially. “We recognize what the issues are, and we are working to fix them,” said Crute.
“We have significant financial hurdles to overcome,” said Crute. “Significant changes are needed.” According to Crute, the chamber has not been profitable since 2009, and has been using cash reserves to supplement their budget. “It’s easy to manage business and bring in revenue when the economy is good,” said Crute, who added that the chamber was taking action out of necessity. “The hard work gets done right now.”
The chamber’s struggling finances weren’t helped by the cancellation of June’s Inland Business Expo, usually a major source of revenue. Crute said that the reason for the cancellation was the event didn’t sell well enough. “Part of the issue was leadership,” said Crute, who is planning on rescheduling the expo for September and hoping it will sell better.
The chamber is also planning on expanding their presence at the street fair for Poway Days, including potentially a beer garden, if permits go through. Crute also plans to expand the street fair with more small, local crafters. “We want to offer a broader range of services and items,” said Crute. “Make it into a real street fair.”
Crute also offered positive personal experience for why Poway businesses should join the Chamber of Commerce. After joining six years ago, Crute put a link to the chamber website on his business’s site. “Our spot on the Google search engine increased from page two to page one when searching for ‘Poway beer,’” said Crute. “The website can be used to advertise.” The chamber also puts local business owners in contact with each other. “We facilitate personal introductions,” said Crute. “And the folks in government in Poway attend chamber functions. The City Council and the mayor attend chamber functions.”
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