July 23, 2004
Serving Western Deschutes County
Sisters, Oregon

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Sisters chamber director to leave
By Jim Mitchell, Correspondent

Ric Nowak will leave his post as Director of the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce on October 1. photo by Jim Mitchell
Last week Ric Nowak announced that he will be leaving his position as Executive Director of the Sisters Chamber of Commerce in October.

"I want to spend more time on my duties with the Redmond City Council and on the private antique business I have in Redmond that I work with my wife," he said. "And if I can get the financial support, I would like to take another run at a Deschutes County Commissioner position."

Nowak failed in a May bid to win the Republican nomination for that post.

Nowak has agreed to work with the board and to stay until October 1 to "try to keep things on an even keel through the event season." His primary concern is that the staff not be overburdened during the rest of the tourist season, with some major events still scheduled for this summer.

According to Nowak, "There was turmoil prior to my getting here. Previous boards had been accused of micro-managing. The director had left, along with about a dozen volunteers. Then for a couple of months they didn't have a director.

"Right from the outset, the board worked hard to give me the latitude to do what I needed to do. So it was just a question of floatin' the boat and getting things leveled off around here and restoring a flow in the office."

In 18 months as director Nowak feels that one of his primary accomplishments was the hiring of Jeri Buckmann to be full-time events coordinator.

According to Nowak, "She has restored order to event organization that had been let go. She has brought a stability to the place, especially relating to volunteer and other activities in the Visitor Center."

Another of Nowak's successes was his work with the city.

"We now have a very good relationship with the city and very good support from the city," he said.

"Another accomplishment I am proud of was working with the city to bring the SBA (Small Business Administration) loan program to town during the fire-caused highway closure. We worked very hard during that time to get out public service announcements to other parts of the state to let them know that we were alive and well. We had up-to-date information on our website as well and we were on the radio and television nearly every day telling people to come to Sisters. Taking the lead to help support the community through that fire was a big accomplishment."

Nowak feels that the challenges for the new director will include increasing the membership and working to diversify the chamber's income. He feels there is a need to initiate contact with county commissioners to try to get a piece of the county room tax.

Finally, Nowak offers, "The biggest thing is to be an advocate for the business community in all things that affect business in the community. The new director will have to work with the Economic Development Committee to bring very selected employment opportunities to Sisters and work with the Marketing Committee to market Sisters.

"The director must also make sure the staff has the wherewithal to host some of the best events in Central Oregon and be an advocate for the business community to the city. The couplet and urban growth will have a huge impact on this community."

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