Steamboat Springs The dividends paid when businesses empower and encourage their employees to become involved in community service aren’t always tangible, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable.
That was the message sent by three speakers during a Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association economic forum this week hosted by Wells Fargo Bank. The forum was devoted to the twin topics of community and heritage.
Alpine Bank President Adonna Allen said her company has made community service such an important point of emphasis that a willingness to volunteer has become fundamental to the process of hiring. A history of community service is one of the keys to finding new employees who can be counted on to remain with the bank for more than a few months, she added.
“Whenever we begin the hiring process, we ask job candidates, ‘How important is it for you to be involved in the community?’ because if they don’t have a passion to begin with, it’s very difficult to light that fire,” Allen said.
Allen, who grew up on a ranch in the lower Elk River Valley, shared the perspective that community service and heritage are joined in the DNA of the Yampa Valley and its agricultural traditions.
“Growing up, we were always expected to help our neighbors and to help our grandparents on a regular basis,” she said.
Chris Tamucci, international sales manager for Honey Stinger/Big Agnes, has a busy travel schedule and is focused on doing business well outside the boundaries of the Yampa Valley. However, he has jumped into local community service and realized the benefits of strengthening local ties.
“The bulk of our revenue takes place out of the valley, but we have a ton of partners in the valley, and that makes it important to be involved,” he said.
Honey Stinger and Big Agnes rely heavily on business professionals in Routt County and have more dealers for their products in Steamboat than in any other city in their distribution network, Tamucci said.
He has been involved with the board of the Young Professionals Network, was a member of the Leadership Steamboat Class of 2009 and works with the Chamber’s marketing committee and the Bike Town USA Initiative.
Tamucci has advocated for the benefits to be realized when employees bring newfound skills and insights gleaned from colleagues on community boards back to the office.
“You get more social involvement, which makes people learn and bring it to work,” Tamucci said. “That always takes place in a group.
“I’ve learned about the local economy and social systems. I gained experience on working with a board of directors, setting goals and making things happen.”
In addition, he said, his company wants its employees to recognize and greet influential people in the community when they come into the store on Oak Street, and involvement in community organizations furthers that goal.
Walter Magill, principal in his own business, Four Points Surveying and Engineering, has made time in his busy family and business life to serve on the Steamboat Springs City Council. He finds that involvement in city government pulls him into many tangentially related events that have enriched his role in the broader community.
He recently took his children to an opening at the Steamboat Art Museum where he enjoyed interacting with new people. He felt the same way about competing on a City Council team at a recent spelling bee, where he met 89-year-old Steamboat resident Gene Cook for the first time and listened to his perspective about changes in the community. Magill said he has gained similar insights from interacting with Joe Zimmerman in the city’s water department.
“Somebody can gain an understanding of the community in a short time from becoming involved,” Magill said. “The people taking part in the (update) of the Area Community Plan, those are people who truly believe in Steamboat. People in these core groups are core citizens.”
Serving on City Council has also taught Magill, through the budget process, about the challenges of supporting the myriad community groups and nonprofits in Routt County.
Allen said her bank, despite its deep commitment to community service, has had to learn how to manage requests for cash contributions and spread its support with products — water bottles, for example — that nonprofits can give away. Employees are required to make a contribution, no matter how small, to Routt County United Way. And sometimes they pool resources to buy expensive raffle tickets with matching funds from the bank.
Often, the bank extends its support for the community through the involvement of its employees.
At her bank, Allen said, a committee of employees already is planning ahead to volunteer at the Chamber’s OktoberWest, still more than two months away.
The bank also rewards employees for volunteerism. For example, some employees recently each were given $100 and told to go on a scavenger hunt at local businesses and spend that amount entirely on themselves.
Alpine Bank, with locations across the Western Slope, allows employees at all those branches to take time with pay to work as volunteers, and not just in their own towns. An employee in Steamboat with an interest in baseball or music festivals could volunteer with the Junior College World Series or the Country Jam concert in Grand Junction.
Although Alpine Bank will pay its employees to leave the bank to work in a school classroom, Allen has noticed an interesting development throughout time.
“As they get into it, they don’t even ask for volunteer time any more.”
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com