River outfitters in the Grand Canyon didn't used to get together much. Ever since whitewater rafting's popularity took off in the late 60's, the conventional wisdom among company owners was, "I'll fight my own battles, thank you." Though outfitters have had reason enough to organize as an industry, for most it just wasn't worth the headaches. That is until now.
"Getting outfitters to all go the same direction is rather like herding cats," says Scott Seyler of Arizona River Runners in Phoenix. Seyler is acting president of the Grand Canyon Outfitters Association which is actively recruiting an executive director and registering with the Arizona Corporation Commission this month as a non-profit trade association.
The association's mission statement is to "Serve The Interests of River Outfitters, Their Employees, and GuestsÓ," says Seyler. "The next major goal is to use our best contacts to seek out qualified candidates for our first executive director. The director will have major responsibilities, so we need someone who has a wide range of talents." The successful candidate must be a public relations expert who possess the ability to both write well and speak in a public forum while being current on issues affecting outfitters and the Grand Canyon. The director must be able to represent sixteen various interests while focusing of the organizations goals. The position will require marketing and computer as well as budgeting skills. The director will be responsible to association members but will report directly to an executive committee selected from the member body.
River running may look the same, but as an industry, it's having to grow up. "Twenty years ago I spent just 5% of my management time working with all the government agencies," says Rob Elliott, owner of Arizona Raft Adventures in Flagstaff. "And now I spend easily 40% of my time on regulatory compliance issues. Some of it is reasonable and has made my company better -- like enhancing access to river trips for persons with disabilities. But some of it is beyond reason, like the U.S. Coast Guard wanting to come in and have piece of the action."
Another big change under the new seven year concessionaire contracts is that collectively, the Grand Canyon outfitters will be contributing $750,000 per year toward capital improvements in Grand Canyon National Park through a new entity they are forming called the Grand Canyon Outfitters Colorado River Fund. "This will be good for the river running public in the Grand Canyon," says Garrett Schniewind of Canyon Explorations in Flagstaff, "but it also brings more administrative challenge when company owners and top management are already maxed out."
According to the outfitters, the solution to dealing with regulatory change and administering this new pot of money for capital improvements at the Grand Canyon is to form the Grand Canyon Outfitters Association. "In an industry dominated by small businesses, we can bring collective solutions to problems common to all of us," says Schneiwind. "And the key is finding a top notch executive director."
Candidates interested in the position of executive director of the new association may send their resumes to the Grand Canyon Outfitters Association, P.O. Box 9429, Phoenix, AZ 85068.
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