Arlene Alen, the new executive director for the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce (JCCC), says that a “chamber of the future” is one that works hard not only hosting luncheons, but integrating with the economic development council and with government to boost business.
Currently, Alen is making the transition from her previous position as president of the Chino Vally, Arizona, Area Chamber of Commerce (CVCC) to her new JCCC job.
Alen is taking the helm from former executive director Teresa Verraes, who has moved on to head the Port Townsend School of the Arts.
Alen said she has already met with county commissioners and with Port Townsend City Manager David Timmons, and thought the JCCC board and the city had a “clear path” to move forward.
Alen said she has attended Jefferson County Economic Development Council (EDC) meetings and “on my schedule right now is to start sitting in on City Council meetings and County Commission meetings. Having served as an elected [official] for quite some time and served on city commissions, I know that I’m going to get some really good information from them.”
The JCCC and the EDC can work closely with the city and county on business development opportunities, Alen said.
“I’ve done a lot in six days, but I have a long way to go,” she said during an interview on March 16. “Today is day seven.”
Alen lived in northern Arizona for 10 years and worked for the CVCC for four of those years.
“We redefined the events around the [CVCC] chamber and really changed the chamber from being an inward-facing chamber that solely focused on an important part of what chambers do and what they’re going to do in the future – which is networking and luncheons and mixers – and we really looked at the chamber of the future and how important it was for the chamber to build community,” Alen said. “And, in building community, build business, and how integrated that is in building quality of life for the community.”
Alen’s work in Arizona included attracting people from the nearby Phoenix area to attend events in Chino Valley and thus drive revenue.
“We started a series of community events. We had started Fall Fest, which had multiple components in it, and it was a real celebration of fall,” Alen said.
“Chino Valley is a western town,” she said, and one of the events the chamber organizes there is the “Sequins and Saddles” gala, which features live bands and a “best western costume” contest and other events.
The CVCC also hosts the Heritage Festival, with pony rides and equine expo, to celebrate the rich history of Chino Valley.
“We were doing a lot in the community, and I think that made a huge difference in attracting businesses to the community whom were socially aware,” Alen said.
The CVCC also held the first job fair in Chino Valley, Alen said, which featured more than 60 employers and more than 600 job openings.
Alen is also interested in an unusual idea called “placemaking,” Allen said.
“Placemaking is the passion of my life. Placemaking is taking the inherent qualities of a community – the fact that you have a dock and you have a bay and you’ve built tourism around it.
“Placemaking is art and architecture and marketing, and creating a quality for a community based on the history and culture. It’s very organic, and it has a lot to do with economic development, lean architecture. It really is very much an art form. I’m a very strong believer in community branding and in placemaking. And [Jefferson County] is a marvelous place and is on the right path.”
Alen said she’s living in a “cute cottage” in Port Townsend, but still has to move furniture from her home in Arizona.
Alen has two pets: an Arabian bay horse named Jaz and a border collie/heeler mix named Boo.
An Arabian bay is a tan horse with a black mane and black tail, she explained.
Both animals were “rescues,” she said.
“She’s fun,” Alen said of Jaz, who is 8 years old. “She’s so smart and learning so fast … this horse is a rescue that had some issues.
“I’m trying to get Jaz to a point where we could start doing dressage together and start doing some trail rides, because you have beautiful trails.”
THE PRICE IS RIGHT
Alen said she has a background in economic development, architecture and historical preservation, as well as in the film and television industries.
“I lived in a lot of places as a kid,” Alen said, including locations in New York, Canada and Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
She recalled that while attending high school in Florida, she spent time at the Coconut Grove Marina, sketching the boats for months on end.
“I remember curling up on the docks with sketchpad in hand for hours at a time,” she said.
Alen went to college in Pittsburg and attended graduate school in Los Angeles.
“My degrees were in architecture and design, and I worked in the film industry as an art director and production designer,” Alen said.
According to the Internet Movie Database website, Alen’s credits include working for “The Price Is Right” TV show.
“I was very fortunate to work on a whole variety of things. I did a lot of work in television as well as films. I did a lot of TV series. I got into technology because the first game show I ever designed, I had to design these huge walls to hide all the technology.”
The show’s producers called her back six months later to redesign the set, because the newer technology was much smaller, she said.
Alen said she enjoyed living near Prescott, Arizona, but added, “I’m from California and what was missing was an ocean.
“You’ve got ships and you’ve got ferries … when I lived in Arizona, I had to learn rodeo and so now I’m learning maritime, and it’s very fun,” Alen said.
“Everyone thinks of Arizona as being like Scottsdale and Phoenix, with cactus all over. I lived in northern Arizona in the north-central highlands, halfway between Phoenix and Flagstaff, which you know is so into skiing.” Northern Arizona has four mild seasons, “so we have snow in the winter and heat in the summer and beautiful springs and fall.”
“Arizona, everyone says, has a dry heat, and they do. And we were at 5,000 feet, so even in the dark you got sunburned. But this is like a wet cold, so it’s going to take some getting used to,” Alen said with a laugh.
“When I made the decision to look for another opportunity, [JCCC] was on my radar, and when I came up here for the interview, it was like a better Prescott and it had an ocean. And I thought, ‘This is the perfect place.’ And there’s something totally magical about Port Townsend. I’m not sure exactly what that is, but I just fell in love with it. It reminded me very much of Paris. It was a lovely gray, rainy day when I came up. It just reminded me of that. And it was so much like Prescott, and the water was right there.”
The JCCC position also appealed to her, and its board of directors was engaged with the community.
“I think that this community is so engaged in preserving the history of Port Townsend and the quality of life in Port Townsend and keeping it a great place to live and to work, and I’m excited in being part of that,” Alen said.