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Chamber seeks berth in historic depot

December 3, 2017 GMT

NEEDLES — The Needles Chamber of Commerce wants visitors to have a good first impression of the community and argues the best way to accomplish that is to move over to the El Garces, where they would continue to function as the community’s welcome center.

Often described as the city’s crown jewel, the historic Harvey House across the corner from the chamber’s current office has been resurrected as an intermodal transportation facility.

“The chamber is the first face that a lot of tourists see,” said Chamber President Pam Blake. “We need to be in a more attractive place with more room.

“I feel like we’re the heartbeat, and over there it will be alive — bring the El Garces alive.

“Right now it’s dead.”

Added Lyn Parker of the chamber’s board of directors, “We have a constant stream of people that we send along to that building. They want to see it, walk around it, look inside …

“The chamber’s idea is if we were in the building we’d be showing off the building. We’d be happy to assist with tours of the El Garces and that would help expose the building for future tenants.”

Tourism, however, is the operative word, according to Parker. “The chamber of commerce is a tourism marketing agent for the city.” Not economic development, she pointed out, but welcoming visitors to the city, letting them know what Needles has to offer and where, and sending them out to the local businesses. An additional possibility is to become an official California Welcome Center with all that promises by way of national and international marketing of the Golden State.

Board member Jerry Telles floated an initial proposal before the Needles City Council on Nov. 14. Council, in their Nov. 28 meeting, was to consider forming a subcommittee to explore the possibility with the chamber board. The agenda action item called for mayoral appointment of up to three to an ad hoc council subcommittee to investigate establishment of a visitor center in the El Garces and report their findings in 90 days.

“It seems like the timing is good to segue all of what’s happening in Needles to keep promoting Needles and elevate it,” Parker said.