City Council to fill void of chamber in Farmersville

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Council discusses forming a business committee to act as a chamber of commerce

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

FARMERSVILLE – After three failed attempts at operating a chamber of commerce, Farmersville has come up with a new idea to form a group whose mission is to promote existing business in town.

At its Aug. 27 meeting, the Farmersville City Council had a preliminary discussion about forming a Farmersville Business Committee. Similar to a chamber of commerce, the committee would promote existing businesses and help put on activities and events that would promote economic development in the city. Councilmember Greg Gomez said the inability to get a chamber of commerce to take hold was the primary reason for bringing up the committee.

“We want to find a way for businesses in town to start talking to each other,” Gomez said.

Presented as a seven-member board, Gomez said the council suggested starting the committee with just five members consisting of: one councilmember; one representative from the Farmersville Unified School District; two local business owners; and one member of a service club, such as the Farmersville Kiwanis Club; or possibly one at-large member. 

He said staff was concerned with having time to put budgeted time into the committee but was in favor of creating a committee that did not have to meet Brown Act requirements or report to the council.

“If the City Council would like to create a similar committee, then the purpose of the committee, a budget, and staff’s role would need to be determined,” the staff report stated. “Staff is currently not in the situation to provide support to a committee in conducting research projects, but could act more as a liaison.”

Farmersville has had at least three iterations of a chamber of commerce over the last 25 years but remains the only city in Tulare County without an active chamber. Gomez was part of the last effort to restart the chamber of commerce in 2014. Gomez had recruited Farmersville native Raymond Macareno, former executive director and consultant with the Tulare/Kings Hispanic Chamber, to lend his executive expertise and lead the chamber. When the two met with a handful of others to establish a chamber, they discovered a chamber formed five years earlier was still in existence but had not held a meeting in more than a year. 

The 2009 incarnation of the chamber began with a $500 grant from Supervisor Allen Ishida’s Good Works Fund. A group of entrepreneurs, business owners, church leaders and financial professionals began meeting at the same pizza parlor (then known as Pizza Factory) as the chamber board of directors. The board included president Don Mason, vice president Shirley Fiorelli, treasurer Grant Schimelpfining, secretary Scott James as well as board members Kim Patridge and Leon Sisk.

At that time, the City gave the chamber use of the former city hall and former library building on Front Street. Espinoza said the City confirmed the building is still set aside for use by the Farmersville Chamber of Commerce.

Before shutting down in 2011, the chamber had managed to sign up 50 members and had identified at least 100 home-based businesses with an active business license through the City of Farmersville. Prior to that, the Farmersville Chamber went dormant in 2004.

Gomez said both of the chamber groups in town have been inactive for the last four years and he said Mayor Paul Boyer directed staff to put the business committee item on the agenda so that the council could discuss it. He said the issue will come back to the council for a formal vote at a later date.

“We haven’t been able to get a chamber off the ground so hopefully we can use this to spin off into a chamber of commerce,” Gomez said.

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