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Chambershoots to improve exposure

KINGSTON — The new Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce visitors and information desk in the Kingston Community Center is up and running with endless amounts of interesting tid bits not only for tourists stopping by the Little City By The Sea but locals as well.

Besides providing ideas on where to get the best views of Puget Sound or what local museum to visit for a history of the Navy, the chamber is working to improve its relationship with the community and better Kingston’s economic viability.

To emphasize these efforts, the chamber board recently hired consultant Barbara Kitchens of Heartwood Consulting to help re-organize the group. Kitchens will administer and coordinate the volunteer staff at the visitor center and work to lead the chamber in the right direction as it provides additional resources for small business owners and residents.

“Moving into this building really anchored that commitment,” she said.

The entrance to the community center has been remodeled by local builders, who volunteered their time to install a new desk, windows and lighting. The walls of the remodeled area are also covered with brochures that cater to anyone looking for things to do and places to see in the area.

While volunteers are on hand from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Saturday, Kitchens said she would like to bring even more into the fold and eventually increase the site’s hours of operation.

“We’re very excited about this location where we have better exposure to the community,” said Chamber President Tom Waggoner. “We’ve received positive feedback from our membership who are glad we are getting the exposure.”

Kingston resident Jack Minert, who has volunteered with the chamber for the past four years said he likes the new office, which replaces the former one-room building located across the street from the community center.

“It’s warmer and a little nicer because, if there is nobody looking for information, you can always talk with people going to the library,” he said. “You get to see more of the community.”

Minert said he frequently gets questions from people who want to venture into the Olympic Mountains.

“They want to go Hurricane Ridge and the rain forest and be back in Seattle by 8 p.m.,” he said with a laugh.

Other common inquiries include where to park, how to get to Heronswood Nursery and if reservations are required for the ferry. Minert said he has also noticed that visitors from all over the world set foot in Kingston.

“In the summer, we get quite a few people from Europe who want to go climbing in Olympic National Park,” he said.

As for the long term goals of the chamber, Kitchens discovered that education, communication, coordination of business activities and promotions, political connections and updates and fast ferries were the top five items that chamber members believed would enhance economic activity within the area.

As a result, the group’s board is compiling an 18-month plan to develop more resources for the chamber and local businesses. The plan includes holding workshops on marketing and advertising as well as creating a stronger relationship with legislative officials.

As for the foot ferries, now that the dream is becoming a reality with a Kingston-Seattle run, the chamber plans to hold several events this year to recognize the effort.

“It’s a success for this chamber and the community,” Kitchens said. “The chamber has been diligent about the passenger-only ferry situation.”

Waggoner also asked that residents provide feedback to the chamber about the possibility of conducting a ferry trip to the LaConner Tulalip Festival next spring, as well as providing vessels for baseball and football games.

The other big highlight is the chambers’s Web Site, www.kingstonchamber.com, which is expected to be up and running next month, Kitchens said.

There will be an updated list of events on the community calendar on the site which will “really embrace what the community is doing,” she added.By

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