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Sat, Dec. 14

Christian Oliva del Rio to assume leadership of Cottonwood Chamber

Christian Oliva del Rio

Christian Oliva del Rio

COTTONWOOD -- Lana Tolleson, the president and CEO of the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce, is returning to Texas.

Christian Oliva del Rio, who has been office manager at the chamber for nine years, will fill those very large shoes, effective July 1.

Tolleson had a lot of experience in tourism and has been handling those duties, but with her departure she said the Chamber will re-alignin its duties.

"Because I had a background in tourism, I took that part and ran with it," said Tolleson. "Christian has been doing the Chamber of Commerce part for quite some time. The board is moving him up as President and CEO. He will have a greater emphasis on workforce development, economic development, business retention, the Chamber of Commerce area. So, he will hire someone to work on tourism and marketing events."

"When I first started, we probably had about 395 members. We are up over 500 right now Verde Valley-wide," said Oliva del Rio. "We have members, about 30 or so, are also statewide members from the Prescott-area, Phoenix-area, Flagstaff, but the bulk of our members are Cottonwood businesses."

In Cottonwood, the wine business in the Verde Valley was blooming as the rest of the American economy was struggling during the past decade.

"We were just lucky to put in the consumer piece for the Wine Trail," said Tolleson. "While the vineyards were making the product -- amazing wine -- and making their facilities look awesome, the Verde Valley Wine Consortium was there to help the industry with the consumer marketing piece. It was a great piece of the puzzle so that everyone else could concentrate on what they were doing. We were able to do the heavy lifting on the marketing side and promote the community, so people weren't just coming to 'a winery.' They were coming for the whole wine-scene plus visiting the Verde Canyon Railroad, Old Town, floating the river, visiting the historic monuments, hiking and the outdoor stuff."

What's in the future?

"We definitely want to build on the foundation Lana has given us," Oliva del Rio emphasized.

"The Chamber has already been focusing more on workforce and economic-development. We have been partnering with Yavapai College Regional Economic Center. We have been addressing a lot of the needs of businesses in the area. And matching them up with the resources."

"We will have a lot of changes with our council and a new mayor coming in and I think the Chamber has a real opportunity to be a part of that and make sure those partnerships are strong and moving forward.

"And besides tourism, I want to see that the community is friendly to business, both the ones that are here and those coming into the community."

"Any development has to fit with the local community. And we already have some great small manufacturers here, including Laser-lite, Genesis, Precision Labs.

"It's quality of life. People come through on vacation and say, 'I love it here. I want to figure out how to be here year round.'"

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