Battle Ground revives, fills chamber chief job

It was eliminated in 2009; Carrie Schulstad is a former Camas business owner, leader

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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After three years without a paid executive director, the Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce has tapped a familiar Clark County figure for the job.

The chamber hired Carrie Schulstad, a former Camas shopkeeper and business and community advocate who helped lead that city's downtown association. She's been on the job in Battle Ground for three weeks and is already drawing praise.

"The thing that got (Carrie) hired was her over-the-top enthusiasm and can-do attitude," said Mike Harden, chairman of the chamber's 16-member board and owner of Battle Ground Printing.

Schulstad, 45, said she will draw on her previous business and volunteer experience to fulfill a leadership role in a new town.

Her goal is to make the chamber central to Battle Ground's public, civic and business communities.

"I'm hoping to be the hub in this community that connects businesses with each other and with the local and regional communities," said Schulstad, a former small business owner and community volunteer.

Schulstad owned a Camas boutique, The Uncommon Gift, for three years. She closed the shop last year.

"My heart just wasn't in it," said the mother of two teenagers. She will continue to live in Camas, where her children attend school.

While in Camas she helped the Camas Downtown Vision Coalition make the switch to a state-funded nonprofit now called the Downtown Camas Association. Schulstad was heavily involved in starting several Camas events, including First Friday and a Farmers Market that operates during the summer months.

Chamber leaders are counting on Schulstad to use her experience to launch new programs in Battle Ground. She also will act as a business liaison, offering resources to existing companies and startups.

Harden said more and more businesses are making inquiries lately, which prompted the board to name a new executive director. The position had been unoccupied since 2009, when, faced with financial challenges related to the sluggish economy, the chamber board eliminated the paid position then held by Diane Rivera. Rivera was in the job for three years.

With the faltering economy, chamber membership dropped from about 230 members to less than 200.

"It was financially prohibitive to hire a director" while the business community struggled, Harden said.

Board members filled in for the executive until now, as the business community finally appears ready to bring on a full-time executive at the chamber. Board members are gauging that progress, not so much based on new chamber members, but on the number of visits to the chamber's office at 1419 W. Main St. in retail space in the city's Best Western Battle Ground Inn & Suites.

"I think we're on the cusp of an uptick," Harden said. "People really are looking for help and guidance and that's what the chamber is about, helping people who are looking for resources."