Kooler Lifestyle Podcast 4 – Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce CEO

00:00:00:18 – 00:00:21:22
Matt Keuhlhorn
Hello, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Kooler Lifestyle Podcast. I’m your host, Matt Keuhlhorn, and I’m excited to have you join me as I interview community members and business leaders from the communities in which I live, work and serve. Through my business, cooler garage doors. We’re going to bring you highlights and characters in our communities. Why? Because community matters.

00:00:22:01 – 00:00:49:14
Matt Keuhlhorn
And I want to know more about who is behind our business and leadership in order to understand and support the community fabric that our relationships make up. Join me twice a month as we dove into getting to know each other better and collectively, we can build stronger communities that support our lifestyles. Our youth and our health. Hello, ladies and gentlemen, this is Mac Yo Hahn with the Cooler Lifestyle Podcast, and I am so excited for today’s conversation.

00:00:49:14 – 00:00:57:09
Matt Keuhlhorn
We have the new CEO for the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, Candace Carnahan, joining us. Candace, how are you today?

00:00:57:21 – 00:01:00:21
Candace Carnahan
I’m doing good. Thank you so much for having me today.

00:01:01:13 – 00:01:08:04
Matt Keuhlhorn
Wonderful. It has been super, super chilly up here in Gunnison. How’s the weather down in Grand Junction today?

00:01:08:16 – 00:01:15:02
Candace Carnahan
Weather in Grand Junction is beautiful fall day, which means you can have a little bit of everything, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

00:01:16:06 – 00:01:31:17
Matt Keuhlhorn
I love that. Awesome. Candace, I’m curious know we haven’t had too many conversations to date yet. Well, give me a short snippet of your history. How do you how do you land this position? Where where does it come from? How long you’ve been in the area?

00:01:32:24 – 00:02:07:05
Candace Carnahan
So I have actually been born and raised here in Grand Junction. So it’s very exciting to be representing my home community. I obviously after high school, was able to go out and go to college, explore a little bit and then return to the valley. About seven and a half years ago, joining the Chamber of Commerce team. So I have been with the Grand Junction Chamber for about seven and a half years and excited to start this new role now.

00:02:07:05 – 00:02:14:21
Matt Keuhlhorn
That’s awesome. So have you always wanted to hold the seat overall?

00:02:15:04 – 00:02:57:03
Candace Carnahan
That’s a very interesting question. I appreciate it. You don’t start this type of career necessarily with your eyes on necessarily the role. I think when I started the job here, I quickly took to the amazing work that we’re doing and found passion for really the importance of the role that we play in this community. And the work here is just so impactful and through the years really grew to understand and be committed to continuing that excellence and that and that key role that we play in both the business community’s health and our economic health.

00:02:57:06 – 00:03:16:09
Candace Carnahan
And when the opportunity did rise, I didn’t hesitate because I knew that I had prepared with my time here at this organization and was absolutely ready to take that next step and lead into our next chapter as an organization.

00:03:17:11 – 00:03:49:10
Matt Keuhlhorn
I love that. And I mentioned this before we hit record, but for the listeners, you know, as a new business coming into Grand Junction, the Chamber has been an amazing resource and I really value that. Having interacted with other chambers, I’m just really, really impressed with the Grand Junction chamber. So kudos there. I’m really curious now that I know that you grew up here, what is it that you love about the area and about being part of the community?

00:03:49:10 – 00:04:18:14
Candace Carnahan
It is. And you probably have witnessed this as you become more and more familiar with our community. But it becomes apparent very quickly how unique our community is. And we have this wonderful sense of pride and character, awe and commitment to each other, whether it be individuals or businesses, to make sure that overall we’re thriving and not just surviving.

00:04:19:01 – 00:05:10:13
Candace Carnahan
And every time some sort of barrier or challenge and we could we could reference the recent pandemic comes up, we hunker down as a community and create truly collaborative solutions to whatever that barrier may be. Understanding that we are unique and whatever is working well in Denver or surrounding areas may not be the right fit for us. And so we lay all of our cards on the table, look at all of the resources that we have, and we’re able to really find some amazing, creative, thoughtful solutions that have, have allowed us to navigate some really troubling times to the best of our ability, and often come out of things a little quicker than surrounding areas.

00:05:10:13 – 00:05:17:22
Candace Carnahan
And I just that’s a testament to the character and the true nature of this community.

00:05:17:22 – 00:05:48:23
Matt Keuhlhorn
You hear that, and I feel that, too. And certainly the last handful of years have presented numerous challenges. And I’m you know, when I’m engaging in Grand Junction, I’m seeing some of the same trends that are happening in Gunnison. So I’ve been in Gunnison for 25, 26 years, came out from the Midwest. There’s significant change occurring. What are some of the changes that you’re seeing, whether it’s in population or mindset for Grand Junction.

00:05:50:19 – 00:06:20:05
Candace Carnahan
There are amazing changes happening, but with those come some challenges as well that are changing with the community. And obviously we are doing well overall as a community. We are growing, which is a positive thing, but we want to make sure that we’re being thoughtful and we’re navigating the challenges that come with that growth. And so you’re seeing questions about affordable and attainable housing become really a priority in the community.

00:06:20:05 – 00:06:48:21
Candace Carnahan
And it’s it impacts individuals who are trying to invest in their their homes and change from a renter status to a homeowner status. But then as a business community, we’re seeing it impact the ability to bring in talented and skilled workforce if there’s nowhere for them to live. This is something that they’re saying, I would love to take the job, but I just can’t move to Grand Junction and that’s a conversation that we should all be concerned and aware of.

00:06:48:21 – 00:07:22:08
Candace Carnahan
And it’s a change that’s that we’re feeling as we continue to grow, as the economy shifts and and adjust. And so those are the types of things that we have to always be aware of. And and I say that change can be a good thing if you remain nimble and aware of what it is that is happening. And oftentimes when you choose to stand still in one spot for things to either settle down or fix themselves or the change slow down, you get left behind.

00:07:22:08 – 00:07:45:18
Candace Carnahan
And so as a community and as a chamber of commerce, we want to make sure that not only as an organization, we’re looking forward and finding ways to navigate the change and the uncharted waters. But we’re also providing resources for our members and the community at large to join us in that journey, because we want to be moving forward as a community and not leave anybody behind.

00:07:46:23 – 00:07:54:21
Matt Keuhlhorn
While on audible housing. I think that’s a continuous theme along the entire Western Slope, maybe all through everywhere.

00:07:55:10 – 00:08:21:21
Candace Carnahan
Yes, it is so impactful. And you’re seeing that in communities around us at the state level, it’s a big conversation. And again, we cannot just stick our heads in the sand and say it’s not impacting us or it’ll work itself out. These are challenges that find solutions when stakeholders and community members come together and say, We’re going to attack this together and together is how it truly happens.

00:08:21:21 – 00:08:44:13
Candace Carnahan
It’s not one entity. It’s not about just throwing money at it. We have to make sure that we are finding a cohesive, thoughtful solutions to these challenges and problems so that as things change and grow, we’re doing it from from a truly healthy place.

00:08:44:13 – 00:08:56:21
Matt Keuhlhorn
What do you like people to know about our Grand Junction chamber? And maybe they don’t know about everything, but what are some of the snippets? What are some of the highlights?

00:08:57:05 – 00:09:26:22
Candace Carnahan
The best thing that I, I could point out to everyone is that if there’s one thought that they have about our chamber, it’s to think of us as a resource. And and that can mean a lot of different things for a lot of different businesses and a lot of different people. We are a resource for information on what’s happening in our community, what is impacting business owners, employers, the employees themselves.

00:09:26:22 – 00:09:54:15
Candace Carnahan
And it’s not just keeping them up to date on timely issues, but it’s also how to navigate certain things that are creating pressures. For instance, we’re hosting even today a luncheon on just budgeting for a recession. We find that a lot of businesses have only been around for less than 510 years. Chances are they have not navigated this water before, and it’s going to look different than the pressures that came during the pandemic.

00:09:54:15 – 00:10:19:21
Candace Carnahan
So how can we help prepare business owners who oftentimes are the h.r. Director, the owner, the janitor and the counter clerk? How can we help them with resources that might just take one less burden off their shoulders or at least lighten it a little bit, but also as a resource, we want to make sure we’re connecting you to fellow peers and stakeholders within the community.

00:10:19:21 – 00:10:42:15
Candace Carnahan
We’re all in this together, and so it’s important that we have that strong, meaningful connection with those who are in this journey with us together. So, you know, I always say if it’s a question, call us and ask. We can if we don’t have the answer, we can help find the answer or connect you with someone that does and start from there.

00:10:42:21 – 00:10:49:15
Candace Carnahan
And of course, there’s a lot of other things that we do, but at the most basic level where we’re a resource.

00:10:51:04 – 00:11:20:19
Matt Keuhlhorn
Yeah, and, and I would emphasize and correct me if I’m wrong, but I mean, obviously you’re resource kind of primarily first and foremost for small business that’s in the area, but that would ripple into the community and you know, coming from my background of nonprofit and I ran our our county’s coalition around drug prevention for a couple of years and it really highlighted how that community fabric is rippling and touching everybody.

00:11:21:01 – 00:11:46:08
Matt Keuhlhorn
Right? So if there is a business that strong, it’s not about lining the business owners pockets book, but it’s about the lifestyles that that business can support. It’s about the protective factors that go into a community. So I just hear when you’re speaking resources, you know, it is a full on community game that goes well beyond any one or multiple small business.

00:11:46:08 – 00:12:10:15
Candace Carnahan
And it is and I think it’s important when you’re looking at chambers of commerce in general, there is there’s been a shift in what our role is in the community. And when you look at when we started, it was about the networking and we kind of make jokes about the parties and the parades and the, you know, the pancakes that was the the chambers of commerce when they first started out.

00:12:10:15 – 00:12:44:11
Candace Carnahan
But technology has evolved. Resources have evolved. Our role right now is to really make sure that we are a catalyst for those important conversations. We’re convening the decision makers and stakeholders that can truly impact those conversations and that we’re a true champion for the business community and the community at large because you cannot separate the two. And, you know, you mentioned encouraging healthy habits and your workforce are your family and your neighbors and your friends.

00:12:44:21 – 00:13:10:05
Candace Carnahan
There is no separation of just the community and just the businesses. It’s all intertwined. And we have to make sure that we’re looking at all the pieces of the puzzle that truly add up to business, health and economic prosperity. And so our role is to make sure that we are at the table helping with those conversations, child care options, affordable housing, homelessness, our school district, strategic planning.

00:13:10:23 – 00:13:26:14
Candace Carnahan
All of these pieces contribute to what allows us to thrive and not just survive. As a community and as a chamber, we are excited to be part of the conversation and truly leading the efforts on a lot of these issues.

00:13:27:06 – 00:14:00:17
Matt Keuhlhorn
I love that you brought up like the shift in in chambers because the organization organization of of chamber business chambers have been around for a long, long time, 100 plus years if I have my stats. Correct. Right. Yes. And I know any organization that gets around that long, they they could either fizzle out and become really low energy pieces or they pivot right and they shift and I think shift is kind of this work that we’re we’re all in and all experiencing.

00:14:00:17 – 00:14:20:12
Matt Keuhlhorn
And this applies for businesses and industries as well as chambers. So I’m glad you brought that up because that probably is one of the key differentiators in just my experience with the Grand Junction chamber is, you know, there there is healthy electricity and energy and I think it is part of that shift and what you just spoke to.

00:14:20:12 – 00:14:30:17
Matt Keuhlhorn
So looking forward, I think we’ve had years of shifting and and now you’re in this seat and looking forward. What what are you excited about over the next few years?

00:14:32:05 – 00:15:03:20
Candace Carnahan
Well, we have so many great opportunities as an organization. We’re we’re truly in a blessed spot to have had so many years of success and wonderful foundations being built for our organization. But it then allows us to have this amazing jumping off point to look at what our next chapter looks like. So in the next few years, as businesses you’re seeing communities are seeing it, everything’s evolving.

00:15:03:20 – 00:15:35:07
Candace Carnahan
And especially in Grand Junction, it’s we are in this amazing time. And so I don’t think it could have been timed more perfectly that we as a chamber are also looking at our next evolution as well. Because you’re right, if you if you don’t evolve, if you aren’t nimble, you dry up on the vine. And it’s really important that Chambers continue to evolve with their business community, because what they need from us to best serve them is changing.

00:15:35:07 – 00:16:03:14
Candace Carnahan
And if we’re only continuing to do the same things and we are not truly fulfilling the purpose and mission that we serve, and that’s to to be the voice of business and be that resource to support them. So in the next few years, you’re going to see obviously a continued priority on being that strong advocate about policy and regulations as that continues to add barriers to to businesses.

00:16:03:21 – 00:16:34:08
Candace Carnahan
But making sure that we’re keeping a very mindful eye on local issues that are impacting our businesses right now today. And it ties back to what we mentioned earlier, earlier, housing and workplace wellness and burnout and workforce is the number one issue that keeps our businesses up at night. How are we connecting talented, skilled workers with our current employers so that we can keep a strong pipeline of talent here?

00:16:34:08 – 00:17:05:01
Candace Carnahan
So it’s exciting that we’re having these conversations. All of the stakeholders are committed to being at the table and working to the collaborative solutions. And really, I think the next few years you’re just going to continue to see those unique solutions we talked about earlier that are coming from collaborate, collaborations within the community, playing a key role in making sure that we’re navigating some less than ideal times ahead of us.

00:17:05:16 – 00:17:12:09
Matt Keuhlhorn
Yeah, I don’t necessarily see it getting easier really quickly.

00:17:12:09 – 00:17:24:01
Candace Carnahan
No, not unless you know something and something else that no one else knows either. But the signs are that we need to you know, be very aware of how we’re moving forward.

00:17:24:14 – 00:17:47:04
Matt Keuhlhorn
Absolutely. Yeah. And you mentioned just to kind of piggyback on that, you know, new businesses that have been around for six or seven years and haven’t really gone through a recession. And I love that resource of planning for the recession. But there’s also, you know, in my network, I’m talking with business and entrepreneurs that have been around for decades, 50 plus years.

00:17:47:04 – 00:18:03:03
Matt Keuhlhorn
Right. And they haven’t seen the environment as it is either. Right. Which is a little bit of a level playing field. But it also is like, all right, let’s really come together and figure stuff out because nobody really has a background of the environment as it is.

00:18:04:03 – 00:18:30:12
Candace Carnahan
Yeah, absolutely. And you know, and it’s so important that we continue to have an awareness that we need to make sure we’re providing opportunities and information that are pertinent to different sized businesses, businesses who are in a different place in their business life, and also representatives who are in different places in their career as well. And so it is a large mountain to climb in a lot of ways.

00:18:30:24 – 00:19:03:18
Candace Carnahan
But to your point as well, we all have these common threads that are pulling us together and if we can continue to leverage the resources that we have and make sure that we’re really looking at the variety of topics that we need to to cover to make sure that we’re supporting as best we can, that as an organization what we have to do to make sure that we’re staying successful and and everybody is better for it, not just our members, but the entire business community across the board.

00:19:03:18 – 00:19:30:09
Candace Carnahan
And I think that’s really important to point out that, you know, our investors and our members are such strong partners and understanding the work that we do. But we also understand that a rising tide brings all boats, right? So we want to make sure that the resources that that we create and offer, that there’s opportunity for everyone to take advantage of it.

00:19:31:14 – 00:19:51:03
Matt Keuhlhorn
We’ll start wrapping up our conversation here with a couple of final questions. This one’s a twofold question from your perspective, how might businesses and community leaders work together even more? And then the second part of that is, you know, for businesses or community leaders that want to engage with the chamber, how might we do that?

00:19:52:05 – 00:20:23:07
Candace Carnahan
Absolutely. I think it’s going to be more important than ever in the coming year that as we’re looking at navigating some of the challenge and barriers coming into the community, that, one, you take advantage of the opportunities that are provided to engage, whether it’s public comments, hearings, information sessions within the community, but stay educated and really make sure that you are aware of what is happening within the community and the state and even at the federal level.

00:20:23:15 – 00:20:47:01
Candace Carnahan
Gather information. And I also encourage folks to gather information on their own. It’s it’s very easy. We’re all busy to just grab the first information that’s handed to us. And there’s a lot of noise out there. So it’s important to take a little bit of time to sort through that and get really down to the issues and understand what what is the actual question that’s being asked that we’re trying to solve as a community?

00:20:47:22 – 00:21:21:13
Candace Carnahan
And then when we’re looking at solutions, making sure that while we’re looking at the intent of the question and the issue that we’re very aware of what possible side effects and outcomes are as well to make sure that a quick answer to solve this problem doesn’t create long term additional challenges and questions. So it’s very easy when we have pressing issues to try to make very quick, impactful decisions, but sometimes taking an extra little bit of extra time to analyze the full picture is important.

00:21:22:00 – 00:21:43:10
Candace Carnahan
And as far as the chamber and engaging with us, just stay connected with us. We do our best to communicate through a variety of different avenues on opportunities for our members to engage in the conversation, stay educated and also give input. We never want to not operate from a position where we’re assuming what you need or what you want from us.

00:21:43:16 – 00:22:08:22
Candace Carnahan
And so it’s critical that you continue to to be part of the conversation so that we’re always looking at serving you the best that we can. And also, when we’re out there in the community advocating and representing the business community that we’re doing so, knowing that we’ve received plenty of feedback and information as to what is really happening in the community right now like that.

00:22:09:06 – 00:22:14:13
Matt Keuhlhorn
So you guys are open for phone calls, emails, whatever channel, all the things.

00:22:14:13 – 00:22:30:09
Candace Carnahan
Absolutely. We have a great team here. It’s not just myself. There are five of us here that are happy to to answer questions, get folks connected, and, of course, provide resources along the way. So we encourage you just pick up the phone, send an email or stop in.

00:22:31:17 – 00:22:57:15
Matt Keuhlhorn
Love it. All right. I think it is my final question, Candace. And honestly, you don’t have to disclose if you don’t want to. But knowing what you know about Grand Junction, is there a hidden gem, whether it’s an actual business or, you know, one of our just outdoor escapes areas that you just love above pops up there and everything else.

00:22:57:15 – 00:23:27:24
Candace Carnahan
Wow. That is a challenging question and I’ll probably give you not quite the answer that you’re wanting, but I think what’s exciting and a hidden gem in Grand Junction at there is that there are so many hidden gems in Grand Junction and it depends on your mood and what you’re wanting to do for the day. Right. But you can again, born and raised here and weekly, find new things that I say to myself.

00:23:27:24 – 00:23:57:01
Candace Carnahan
I had no idea this was here or this is my new favorite. And then you go to something else and then you you find another amazing experience within the community. So I would say and part of the fun is going out and discovering those, whether it’s all the new breweries popping up, a new trail here, there, or starting with the trail and then stopping at a brewery and then going and checking out some sort of arts and culture event for our community, our size.

00:23:57:01 – 00:24:14:14
Candace Carnahan
We have such an amazing, vibrant lifeblood that pumps through. And so there is a hidden gem for everybody. And every day, depending on what it is you’re feeling when you wake up in the morning. And that to me is makes our whole community a truly hidden gem.

00:24:15:14 – 00:24:38:19
Matt Keuhlhorn
Yes, I love that answer. So, so good. And there is so much and it’s it’s just a journey to uncover every day. So, Candace, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate this conversation. I’m excited to get some of this information out. And I just, again, really appreciate what you and your team do for the community.

00:24:39:03 – 00:24:42:01
Matt Keuhlhorn
And yeah, I’m glad I’m engaged as well.

00:24:42:19 – 00:25:00:00
Candace Carnahan
Well, I appreciate the opportunity. And again, we we cannot do what we do without support of fellow partners, investors and and stakeholders that the understand the importance of strong business. So we we appreciate it and are excited to see what’s ahead.

00:25:00:20 – 00:25:03:08
Matt Keuhlhorn
Yeah, me too. Well, I love it. Thank you again.

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