The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce has been zeroing in on social media and its online business directory over the last year in an effort to encourage the community to shop local.

The Chamber, which has been in existence since the 1890s, has done everything from helping budding entrepreneurs start their own small business, to facilitating ribbon-cutting ceremonies and encouraging business people from all over the region to transition to Santa Maria and open up franchises. 

The Chamber also works with large business development projects in the city —the most recent being the Enos Ranchos development, which got the green light in March this year. 

But promoting local business services is always at the top of the list, said Glenn Morris, Chamber executive director.

To market local businesses in the area, the Chamber has been utilizing social media sites like Facebook and Twitter along with a business directory to promote a retail establishment or help customers find exactly what they need — from popular restaurants to homes to fashion, or even legal services.

“We start off by guiding people to our online directory,” said Morris. “We’ll encourage them to use the website, search by category and the types of businesses to meet their needs — anything from looking for a place to eat, shop and everything else."

The Chamber also circulates local stories about retailers in the community and alerts the public to new grand openings or facilitates ribbon-cutting ceremonies for existing businesses that may be relocating to a new area in Santa Maria.

“If there’s new legislation passed at the city or state level, we’ll do research and let the public know how it’ll affect us right here in Santa Maria,” said Morris. “Everything we do and promote has to be relevant and woven back into our local businesses.”

The business directory acts as a portal for local customers and interested patrons from outside the region who may not be familiar with the city, said Morris.

“Visitors new to the Central Coast can use the online directory for everything they’re looking for,” he said. “You can always start there, and if you can find the answer here in town, then everyone wins a little more when you buy from the town."

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Morris added: "The directory helps retailers earn their customers’ businesses and spike online traffic to the site. It’s a good gateway between the public and the business owners." 

Along with the online directory, the Chamber focuses on tourism and marketing to try and bring people into the city — for leisure travel, business meetings and city events.

“We think that really supports our community businesses and promotes the idea of shopping local,” said Morris. “It showcases everything the city has to offer, attracts more traffic and gives people a chance to discover what Santa Maria’s commerce is all about.” 

The Santa Maria Chamber has about 800 members, and just about anyone who owns a business in Santa Maria is invited to join. 

To look up local businesses in the Santa Maria Valley, visit santamaria.com/business-directory/ to get started. 

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210

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Courts/Public Safety Reporter