Visit Cook County Director Linda Jurek and Chamber Director Jim Boyd - Photo by Rhonda Silence
Rhonda Silence

A tale of two directors: Linda Jurek and Jim Boyd

For years the Cook County Chamber of Commerce and Visit Cook County have worked together in a variety of ways. The two executive directors—Linda Jurek of Visit Cook County and Jim Boyd of the Chamber—have attended many of the same meetings and working to support local businesses.

The two entities are close to officially joining forces through a “single executive director” model, with Visit Cook County Executive Director Linda Jurek serving in that position. Chamber Director Boyd will then become the director of policy and advocacy, working part-time.

Boyd jokes that he was initially appointed as Chamber director because he was one of the only founders of the Chamber back in 2013 that wasn’t working full time running a restaurant or resort. On second thought, in a conversation with WTIP, Boyd says that really was the reason he was assigned the task of leading the chamber. He had the time to fill that role.

At the same time that the Chamber was being formed, the three tourism entities in the County—Lutsen-Tofte-Schroeder Tourism Association, the Grand Marais Tourism Association, and the Gunflint Trail Association—were in the midst of creating Visit Cook County. That, Boyd and Jurek say, would not have been a good time to try to have a single director for both the Chamber and VCC.

However, the two now believe this single-director model is the best way to proceed for both organizations. Boyd told members in a letter, “I view these changes as essential to ensuring the long-term survival of a vigorous, thriving Chamber capable of meeting a broad range of member needs. I hope you will agree.”

Jurek certainly agrees and feels her staff at VCC can take on supporting the Chamber with minimal additional effort. She notes that things that the Chamber needs, membership outreach and networking, for example, come naturally to the tourism organization.
Jurek adds that a joint Chamber-tourism model is very common throughout the country.

The new executive director model is not in place yet. A contract is being drawn to ensure that VCC and the Chamber would remain independent, with separate boards and finances. There are still details to be worked out, but Jurek and Boyd are excited about this effort, which will provide significant administrative support for Director Boyd so he can focus on policy and advocacy and will give the VCC crew the opportunity to develop an expanded program of member recruitment and member services.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence sat down with the two directors to talk about the process of this administrative change, the plans to keep Visit Cook County and the Chamber separate, and more. Here’s their conversation.