It has been nearly a year since Nick Vuillemot resigned as head
of the Greater Bernalillo Chamber of Commerce (GBCC). Since then,
the GBCC has been in a holding pattern with few signs of life —
there was not even a Christmas party.
Meanwhile, Vuillemot says he was
approached by business owners to start a new organization called
the Eastern Sandoval County Chamber of Commerce (ESCCC), for which
he serves as paid Executive Director. He has been promoting the
ESCCC to local businesses as a viable alternative to the comatose
GBCC. He has started a website and formed a board of directors which
meets once a month for breakfast.
Vuillemot’s breakup with
the GBCC was a rather ugly affair, which left behind some hard feelings.
He had served for over a year as the Executive Director (ED) of
the GBCC, a newly-created position. Vuillemot offered his services
at no cost when he heard, upon moving to the area, that the board
was looking into hiring an ED to replace the volunteer position
of president. The GBCC was going through one of its periodic slumps,
and the board of directors had decided that the job of running the
GBCC was too much to expect of a volunteer.
Vuillemot agreed to do the job
without pay until he could raise enough money to pay his salary.
He enthusiastically set about rebuilding the GBCC from five to about
eighty paid members, both existing and new. Membership dues were
more than doubled and several fundraising events were held. Vuillemot
corresponded with members via email and a website, and attended
training seminars to learn how professional chambers should be run.
They even had a Christmas party.
In 2006, friction developed between
Vuillemot and the board of directors, especially after the board
refused to reimburse Vuillemot for expenses incurred while attending
a conference of the newly created New Mexico Chamber of Commerce
Executives Association and awards banquet, where he was given an
award as ED of the Year. The GBCC came in second.
Vuillemot alleged that he was
owed $2500 for work-related travel expenses and that he had been
repeatedly unsuccessful in negotiating a contract with the board.
Board president Gary Saiz disputed some of Vuillemot’s claims
and rejected his criticism. On May 22, Saiz asked him by email to
leave the office immediately.
Vuillemot told local media that
he was given no credit for turning around “a social club with
no structure into a professional Chamber of Commerce,” and
criticized the board of directors for disorganized record keeping
and lack of focus.
Since its formation in the early
1990s, the GBCC has been on a boom and bust cycle—built up
by a hard-working leader, then collapsing upon the election of an
unenthusiastic new administration. Members enjoyed the parties,
but most were unwilling to volunteer much time or effort. The successful
presidents invariably came from outside Bernalillo’s inner
establishment, struggling to succeed in a new business venture.
During the nineties, new Bernalillo businesses had a dismal chance
Fawn Dolan, owner of Camino Real
Antiques, founder of Bound for Success, and local property developer,
was undoubtedly the most successful of the group’s presidents.
She built the membership to well over one hundred, organized monthly
mix-and-mingle gatherings, offered group advertising in the local
media, and threw a great Christmas party in 2002. She told the Signpost,
“It’s a shame that we don’t have a solid Chamber
of Commerce—especially with all the prosperity that has come
to the Bernalillo area. It just takes a few volunteers working together
to organize the monthly gatherings, some group advertising, and
of course the Christmas party. The Chamber needs to cater to the
needs of ‘Mom and Pop’ businesses. People deserve the
opportunity to get out and talk to other business owners, to network,
and just compare experiences.”
Ida Fierro, newly-elected president
of the Bernalillo Chamber’s board of directors said, “We
are just reorganizing, but we are still a viable chamber.”
The board has not billed members for dues for over a year, and the
phone has been disconnected. Fierro said, “Since we aren’t
offering any services, it wouldn’t be fair to ask for dues.”
Fierro said the Bernalillo Chamber board has met with officials
of the Rio Rancho Chamber of Commerce to determine if there might
be mutual interests (other than strength in numbers). Fierro said
the Bernalillo Chamber will not consider merging with the ESCCC
and does not view them as competition. “We are all volunteers
who are trying to find a way to serve Bernalillo area businesses.
We’re not seeking personal or monetary gain,” she offered.
She said that the board has been
meeting every two weeks and that they may soon contact former members
and schedule a general meeting. For more information, visit www.bernalillochamber.com.
Mohammed Haq, chairman of the
ESCCC board of directors, said he has made an offer to merge with
the Bernalillo Chamber and the Placitas Chamber of Commerce. “It
doesn’t make sense to have three chambers competing for membership.
Sandoval County businesses need a one chamber to act [with] a collective
voice.” Vuillemot agrees with this assessment, and says that
he is working for unity in the community.
Tom Ashe, President of the Placitas
Chamber of Commerce (PCC), said that the PCC serves companies and
individuals that do business in Placitas, many of which are involved
in homebuilding and real estate. He said, “We support area
businesses, but we have no interest in merging with the other chambers.”
The PCC sponsors the Placitas Home Tour and Placitas Appreciation
Day, held on June 2. Booth space is available and event planning
is open to suggestion. For information, call 867-3011.
ESCCC will have an open house
from 5 to 7 p.m. on April 13 at CRC & Associates, at 993 Camino
del Pueblo in Bernalillo. Sandoval County and Bernalillo business
owners are welcome to attend.
Vuillemot said the ESCCC has forty-three
paid members, with expectations of one hundred members by the end
of April, and two hundred members by the end of the year. The cost
of membership is on a sliding scale, based on the size of the business.
He said, “The value to you of belonging is in excess of $2500
per year.” Benefits include a link from the ESCCCC website
to your website, membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and
business-to-business discounts on goods and services. For more information,
call 771-0262 or visit www.sandovalchamber.com.
Messuri guides holistic financial planning
Phil Messuri brings a broad life experience to the financial planning
business. Engineer, Air Force officer, Viet Nam veteran, manager,
and outdoorsman, Messuri believes that financial planning should
be more than a matter of an insurance man selling mutual funds as
a sideline. He practices holistic and integrated planning, investment
management, risk reduction strategies, and estate preservation.
He is also a licensed insurance agent, but insists that he never
tries to fit a client into his own agenda.
He offers two initial consultations at no charge so he can get
to know potential clients as unique individuals and they can get
acquainted to his approach to financial planning.
Messuri has resided in New Mexico since being stationed here in
1985. He retired in 1990 and moved to Placitas with his wife Diane,
attracted by the vitality of the community and the proximity of
mountain hiking. He served on the Sandia Peak Ski Patrol for eighteen
years. He is a familiar face in the neighborhood association, Chamber
of Commerce, and other community activities. Messuri has an office
in Albuquerque, but has also kept an office in the La Puerta complex
since 2002, believing in the importance of knowing one’s clients
personally in order to establish trust.
“I started investing when I got out of college. Several
unimpressive advisers convinced me that with education, I could
do as well on my own. After I traded in my dress blues for a grey
suit and corporate consulting for a few years, it seemed natural
to move into financial planning,” Messuri said.
He worked with seasoned professionals while doing course work
for his elite Certified Financial Planner certification, and is
now Chapter President of the Financial Planning Association of New
Messuri says he realizes that market fluctuations are always upsetting
to investors—especially like those we have seen lately. “I
encourage clients to use a laddered approach where short-term money
needs are not at risk. Funds needed over the next three to seven
years should be low risk, with a high bond-to-stock ratio. Long-term
investments aim at higher returns on higher stock-to-bond ratios,”
he explained. “I respect the fact that everybody has his own
ideas about an acceptable level of risk.”
For further information, contact Phil Messuri at 798-6941 or visit:
New Mexico Educators opens two new local branches
On February 6, New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union opened
two new branch offices to better serve its membership in Sandoval
County and on Albuquerque’s west side. These new full-service
offices replace the former Rio Rancho branch on Rio Rancho Boulevard,
which closed on February 10.
The Cottonwood branch is located at 10090 Coors Boulevard NW,
northeast of 7 Bar Loop Road in Albuquerque, and is open Saturdays.
The Enchanted Hills office is located at 7840 Enchanted Hills Boulevard,
just west of Highway 528 in north Rio Rancho. Both locations have
drive-up teller service, plus CU Anytime drive-up ATMs with new
imaging technology that accepts deposits without an envelope.
The Enchanted Hills location is New Mexico Educators’ first
use of remote teller stations in a lobby, using video screens showing
the teller, and vacuum tubes for transaction items. This system
affords higher efficiency, because tellers can provide service to
members either in the lobby or the drive-up bays, wherever they
are needed most. Financial Consultants are also in the Enchanted
Hills lobby to assist members with loans and new accounts.
On March 9, New Mexico Educators held a joint grand opening celebration
at both new branches. This event featured local musicians and four
radio stations, food from Copeland’s of New Orleans, prize
drawings every hour, plus special mortgage and loan promotions.
The estimated total attendance at both locations was one thousand
members and many prospective members.
New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union has just over one hundred
thousand members, and thirteen branch offices located in Albuquerque,
Rio Rancho, Los Lunas, Socorro, and Taos. In December 2007, New
Mexico Educators was voted one of the best places to work in New
Mexico. To learn more about New Mexico Educators Federal Credit
Union, log on to www.nmefcu.org.