The Kalispell Chamber of Commerce’s new president and CEO, Lorraine Clarno, officially took the helm on Nov. 16 after her predecessor Joe Unterreiner’s retirement.
Clarno will bring management experience from her previous position as CEO at the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce located outside of Portland, Oregon, and she’s ready to learn “what makes Kalispell tick.”
“I’m coming into this with a sponge point of view,” Clarno said. “I’m going to be learning everything as I go over the first year.”
Since meeting with board members and chamber staff after arriving in October, Clarno says it’s clear that workforce is a major issue impacting Kalispell.
“As I talk to our members, workforce is definitely the number one issue right now,” Clarno said. “Finding, getting and keeping qualified people, especially in pandemic times, is tough. We have to do everything we can as a chamber to try and grow that workforce.”
Addressing the Flathead Valley’s growth is another important aspect of the chamber’s responsibilities, which Clarno says she experienced in Beaverton. After landing in Beaverton in 1995, she watched the population grow from 40,000 people to 100,000 in 25 years.
“I’ve seen what works and I’ve also seen what doesn’t work,” she said. “I’m hoping with that lens I can have an effect on how Kalispell grows going forward. This is an absolute pristine community and we need to make sure the right growth occurs with the community buying in so everyone feels connected and a part of it.”
While Clarno hasn’t been able to meet with community members in large gatherings as the chamber would typically do in non-pandemic times, she’s been able to meet one-on-one with several board members and she’s getting creative with technology to communicate with Kalispell’s population. She plans to conduct weekly video messages in the chamber’s newsletter.
With more than 20 years of experience as a chamber of commerce CEO, Clarno is excited to be in a new community and to continue Unterreiner’s legacy.
“(Joe’s) built a five-star incredible chamber with an incredible team on board,” Clarno said. “He won’t give up being the heart of this community and he’s got a pulse on everything.”
In Oregon, Clarno helped create an economic partnership with the city called IMPACT Beaverton, started a mentorship group of professional women, established a recovery center for businesses impacted by COVID-19 and she founded the Save Small Business Coalition.
Clarno will oversee the chamber’s staff of 11 and report to the four-member executive committee and 26-member board of directors. She will also supervise the chamber’s initiatives, including education, workforce development, strengthening local manufacturing and building upon infrastructure.
The Kalispell Chamber of Commerce consists of 725 businesses and organizations, employing 60% of Flathead County’s workforce.
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