Tested by Fire

Oro Valley Chamber Perseveres After Office is Destroyed

By Dave Perry

The Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce can say it has been tested by fire since last year.

In March 2023, the Chamber’s office at 7435 N. Oracle Road caught fire. Most of the contents were lost, and the space was rendered unoccupiable.

Kristen Sharp, who became Chamber president and CEO in November 2022, led her staff in working remotely while trying to figure out an office solution. With the blessing of the Chamber board, she found a new space within Oro Valley’s Innovation Park. For the first time in its 30-plus year history, the Oro Valley Chamber now owns office space, with a conference room and flexible use area, at 1822 E. Innovation Park Drive.

“The most difficult part after the fire was navigating the immediate chaos and uncertainty,” Sharp said. “At the same time, it allowed us to reassess our priorities and focus on what’s important − our members and community. Ultimately, it led us to a new location that better suits our needs and future growth.”

With that new office settled, Sharp and her team are fully focused on serving members and community alike.

“Our reason for existing is to support business,” Sharp said. The Chamber does that with promotions, continuing education, networking, and major events, as well as 1-on-1 “connections to help members grow their businesses. We’re the voice of the business community, and advocates for the best interests of business.”

Sharp believes each chamber in the Tucson region “has strengths in different areas.”

“We focus on the greater Oro Valley community,” Sharp said. “Our strengths lie in our relationships with our members, and with government and community organizations. We are leveraging those relationships for the best interests of the business community.”

The Chamber and the Town of Oro Valley are in the midst of their “50 Businesses for 50 Years” promotion, a year-long marketing effort to highlight 50 Oro Valley businesses in honor of the town’s 50th anniversary.

This and other Chamber promotions such as its “Locals Eat Local” summertime restaurant promotion, and its holiday gift guide, are intended “to promote shopping local,” Sharp said.

“It’s not just small business, it’s all local businesses,” she continued. “When you shop local, your dollars stay in the community.”

Chamber dollars stay in the community, too. As part of Locals Eat Local, the Chamber buys $50 gift cards at local restaurants and gives them away. In turn, those restaurants and small businesses “support the people who are living here” while giving back, Sharp said. As two examples, Chamber members Freytag Orthodontics focuses its giving on Oro Valley schools, and Fork + Fire Smokehouse and Taproom recently provided lunch to two shifts of nurses at Oro Valley Hospital.

“The Chamber has always done a great job working for its members,” said Josh Bishop, owner of Fork + Fire.

“Being involved with the Chamber is really important,” said State Farm Insurance agent Wendy Wise. “The Chamber has been great” in helping businesses feel “comfortable and welcomed in Oro Valley.” And it plays “a key role as a liaison with the town,” Wise said.

The Chamber works directly to grow business in the community. In May, it committed $10,000 to support CellMedics Inc., winner of a sponsored launch competition for occupancy at the University of Arizona Center for Innovation at Oro Valley.

CellMedics, currently based in Las Vegas, is moving to Oro Valley with a product it wants to commercialize − a patented, topical and transdermal drug delivery platform for hard-to-deliver molecules.

As part of the sponsored launch, CellMedics principals get to work with UACI staff, mentors and subject-matter experts “to really focus on the business side,” said Casey Carrillo, director of strategic partnerships for UACI. The company also receives a year’s use of office and laboratory space, courtesy of the Chamber, as well as Chamber membership for a year.

Sharp’s favorite part of the job “is when somebody is helped by the Chamber, or by something the Chamber did,” she said. “That’s when I say ‘Yes, that’s why we do what we do.’ ”

She considers the Oro Valley Chamber to be relational in its dealings, with a “family feel.” Sharp and her husband Danny Sharp Jr., are raising their two children in Oro Valley. Other members of the Chamber staff live in or near Oro Valley.

“Our staff truly cares about our members and the Oro Valley community,” Sharp said. “We want it to be successful and vibrant, and we want our children to stick around.”

Pictured above – Kristen Sharp, President & CEO, Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Brent G. Mathis


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