Chamber, hotelier in dispute

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By David Giuliani

A prominent local businessman is criticizing the Las Vegas-San Miguel Chamber of Commerce, saying its advertising strategy isn’t effective.

In a letter to chamber President Matt Martinez, Wid Slick of the Plaza Hotel urged the chamber last month to buy a full-page advertisement in the New Mexico Magazine Vacation Guide. The publication would give the city visibility with 650,000 print copies and 2.5 million Internet hits, he said.

Once the chamber puts tracking mechanisms on its web site, the guide will be the biggest source of leads, Slick said.

Slick warned that if the chamber didn’t get a space reservation in the magazine, then he would go public with his criticism of the chamber.

“I hate to be threatening, but this is too important,” Slick wrote. “Las Vegas cannot lose the most important advertising venue of the year because chamber board volunteers and staff are behind in their planning.”

He didn’t release his letter of criticism to the public, but Martinez volunteered it to the Optic last week, saying he wanted to “pre-empt the baloney.”

Slick alleges that the number of projects the chamber operates has dropped. He noted that the chamber no longer operates Fiestas de Las Vegas, has fewer Business After Hours events, used to run the Ambassadors program and no longer has a Shop Las Vegas campaign.

Slick said the chamber has shrunk its board from 15 allowable members to six. In July, at least nine qualified business and professional leaders volunteered their services to the chamber board, but the group hasn’t considered any of them, he said.

Rather than getting a full-page ad in the New Mexico Vacation Guide, the chamber got one that was a third of a page. Last year, it got a full-page ad.

Martinez said the full-page ad would have cost the chamber $13,000 and that the group doesn’t have that kind of money. Even if it did, the group would rather spend its funds locally, he said.

“Our budget is pretty tight,” he said.

Martinez defended his group, saying that the chamber is holding as many Business After Hours socials as before and continues to support events ranging from the Fiestas to the Rough Rider Motorcycle Rally. He said the rally and the Fiestas started with the chamber, but spun off as those events developed their own nonprofit organizations — a common practice for chambers.

Martinez said Slick brought six names of people as potential board members and that the group is still looking at them. He said Slick is trying to add board members in an attempt to get the chamber to support his positions.

Martinez, who has been the chamber’s president off and on since 2006, said the Ambassadors Program was way before his time. He added that the chamber is sponsoring the Student Fiesta for high school and college students for the second year in a row.

“He (Slick) wants to use the chamber as his marketing department,” Martinez said. “I’m calling his bluff because he’s always threatening us. We’re a volunteer board; we don’t need to be a threatened. We are doing the best we can with what we have. We are the marketing arm for the community.”

Dave Romero, a chamber board member, praised the work of Diane Ortiz, the group’s executive director.

“She gets things done. But she’s modest about it and not looking to take credit,” he said.

He called Slick’s approach “sour grapes.”