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Laura Austin Photo / Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rebecca McCourt tells us what is happening at the Chamber and reminds us about ridgecrestevents.com and how to get your announcement on the electronic marquee.

McCourt at Chamber talks about what’s coming up

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer– As the year comes to an end, it is a good time to check in with the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce to get their pulse on what is ahead. Executive Director Rebecca McCourt assumed her position at the end of June this year. She took some time to talk about what is up and coming and remind folks of some important resources they may have overlooked.

McCourt was raised primarily in Arizona and earned a degree in Economics and Political Science from the University of Arizona. In 2015 she came to Ridgecrest in a way similar to many folks, “My husband is an engineer and he accepted a position on the Base.” In 2017 McCourt accepted a position with the Indian Wells Valley Economic Development Corporation (IWVEDC) where she gained invaluable experience that prepared her for her current position. “It taught me all about this community,” she says. “The uniqueness of this community and the relationship of the base and the community and that dynamic.” She learned how this economy functions and what drives the economy here. She adds, “The relationship between the different employers and the tax base and what’s really important to a lot of the people here. It was really invaluable in that sense.”

McCourt and the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors are in tune to the needs of the community.   “There’s always the complaint of either there’s nothing to do or that they don’t know what’s going on. And then they’ll hear about events after they happen. So several years ago, the Chamber of Commerce with the IWVEDC, the Ridgecrest Area and Convention Bureau and interested members of the community got together and started ridgecrestevents.com; a free community calendar where people can list events that they have coming up.” These can be community service organization events, concerts, special events, athletic events, religious events…just about anything that is open to the public.

“It was gaining some momentum and then COVID happened and there were no events going on anywhere because everybody was shut down,” says McCourt.  The Chamber is working on revitalizing interest in the calendar. “We are trying to gather the momentum of people using it not only to list their events but to go to it to find out what’s going on. Not everybody uses social media or knows what to look for on social media. We have the newspapers, but things get listed in some places and not other places. And if you don’t know where to look, you end up not finding out about it until after it’s happened. That seems to be what people complain of often.

  “Ridgecrestevents.com is free to list your event. It’s fairly user-friendly, but we’re always here to support and help people walk through how to list their event if they can’t figure it out.” Once posted on the site, events can be shared on social media, via text, or email. Or you may see it on the marquee at the corner of China Lake Boulevard and Bowman Road.  “Any event that’s on the marquee has to be on ridgecrestevents.com. So if you ever stopped at that stoplight and you see something and then you want more information about it, you can go to ridgecrestevents.com and find the details about what you saw on the sign.”

   There had been a sign on that corner for many years but after it was damaged it was defunct. About a year and a half ago a fully electric sign was installed. “It has a conditional use permit that half of the time it can be paid advertisements for different businesses; the other half of the time it’s for community announcements. We partner with the City of Ridgecrest, if they have things going on and with any other community event. It doesn’t have to be a Chamber member in order for their community event to be listed. We just require that it be on ridgecrestevents.com  and then we can run the information about the community event free for two weeks.” She clarifies, “It’s free if you submit the artwork. If we have to do the artwork for you we do have a fee for that.” The how to and design specifications can be found at ridgecrestchamber.com/sign  

   “We are going to be running some promotions very soon giving people options  to advertise birthdays or anniversaries. This will be a daily rate if you want to give somebody a shout-out in the community. We plan to make that very simple and accessible for people to be able to use.”

   Well-known annual events are being worked on for 2023.  “Right now a lot of our energies are going into planning the Economic Outlook Conference that’s coming up on February 23, 2023.  That’s our annual conference that we host to give a vibe on what the economy of Ridgecrest is doing and what the future looks like.” This year the conference will have a new keynote speaker, Dr. Hedge from CSU Bakersfield. To see last year’s conference report, go to their webpage: ridgecrestchamber.com/eoc

A fun annual event is in the planning stages, Ridgecrest Chamber Follies. “Follies is a good fundraiser for our scholarships.  And that’s a fun time for everybody.” These two nights of entertainment on April 28 and 29 feature local business owners stepping onto stage in a variety show lip-syncing to familiar tunes. This can be a hilarious night to see a familiar business person in a surprisingly totally different way. 

Ongoing is the monthly Chamber Luncheon on the second Tuesday at 12 noon at the Historic USO Building. These luncheons are open to everybody, not just Chamber members, and include a featured speaker. “The luncheon is coming up on the 13th of December. We’re doing Sound Bites this month: a few different members speak for about 10 minutes about what they have going on in their business.” The Chamber requests RSVPs. $30 for non-members and $25 for members.

   “We are a mutual benefit organization. We have a lot of networking opportunities. We get phone calls from all sorts of places asking us all sorts of things. We refer people to our members. Ideally, people seeking sources are going to put a little bit more stock into our information versus a question thrown out there on social media where you never know who’s responding or what their references are or what experiences people actually have had with these organizations or these businesses. 

“We also have our weekly email blasts. That goes out to over 1000 people and it is growing all the time. We provide free advertising for our members in that so if they have a promotion going on or an event coming up or just have an ad they want to send out we send that out with our weekly email. It is really a chance to get involved in the community and have an advocate for the business community that helps amplify a business’s voice.

“We are involved with Cal Chamber which has a presence in the state government and we’re constantly getting information about what’s happening at the state level and how it can impact us locally and how we can advocate for businesses locally, at the state level, and then even nationally with the US Chamber. We want to make sure that we are in tune with what our local businesses want and need and make sure that we’re a voice for them. 

“We are also making sure we’re distributing information to them about upcoming changes. For example, right now labor law changes are effective in January; we keep distributing information about those. We have all posters that businesses need to display; we provide those and those are available for order through us so that businesses can make sure they’re current and in compliance with all of those kinds of regulations and laws.”

You can reach the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce at 760-375-8331, , or at their office 128 E California Avenue, Ridgecrest