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Shop Local

The Main Street Mission

An interview with Kalispell Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lorraine Clarno

By Beacon Staff
Downtown Kalispell. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Flathead Beacon: For those who aren’t familiar, could you share a bit about your organization and the small business community it serves?

Lorraine Clarno: The Kalispell Chamber has been serving the greater Flathead Valley since 1904. We are the catalyst for business growth, the convener of leaders and influencers, and the champion for the Kalispell community. We work to strengthen the local economy and strategically focus on growing business by addressing the challenges they face collectively and drive solutions. We have over 700 members and are growing. Ninety-four percent of our members have between one and five employees.

FB: How do you convey the importance of shopping local and supporting small Main Street businesses?

LC: The heart of our community is downtown Kalispell! It is made up of unique and intriguing boutiques, art galleries, antique stores, restaurants, wineries, breweries, and service businesses. Shopping local is EVERYTHING. Shopping local and on Main Street is crucial for the growth and sustainability of small businesses in Kalispell. When you choose to shop at downtown, you are supporting the local economy and the families that run and work at these businesses. Not only does this keep money in our community, but it also helps to preserve the unique character and charm of our town. By shopping on Main Street, you can discover one-of-a-kind products and experience personalized customer service that is often not found at big box stores.

FB:What are some initiatives you’ve launched, or some principles your organization employs, to support the needs and further the interests of the Flathead Valley’s employers and the local workforce?

LC: Our strategic initiatives include an annual Growth Summit, we have a robust Child Care Initiative, Manufacturing Alliance, Workforce Flathead partnership, and pro-business active Government Affairs and Advocacy platform, and we celebrate all of this annually at the Grand Event in November.

FB: Given the correlation between a vibrant downtown business corridor and the overall economic health of a rural community like the Flathead Valley, what efforts has your organization made to brighten the city centers?

LC: We work in partnership with the Kalispell Downtown Association and Kalispell Business Improvement District and their beautification efforts. We have recently collaborated to develop an Action Plan to keep Kalispell vibrant, welcoming, and safe in the downtown core.

FB: Could you please describe ways in which local professionals can get more involved in advocating for the small business community?

LC: We welcome all local professionals to join us at our table and bring your voice. Our Government Affairs Committee is open to all Chamber members. The Flathead Area Young Professionals are reenergized and already have an outstanding 2024 plan in place. Collectively we must elevate the business voice in the Valley as the problem solvers and foundation of the community. To learn more, please contact Pilar Ogier at [email protected].

Pick up Shop Local magazine on stands across the valley or read it in digital form here

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