What Was Really Behind This Month's Executive Shake-up at the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce?

Did Steve Cushman tip his hand?

That question has been posed in the wake of this month’s word that three of the top executives in the 113-year-old Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce have left or are leaving.

In early May, chamber marketing chief Wendy Figueiredo resigned with little fanfare. Less than two weeks later, chamber Vice President Marcia Reed announced she was taking a new job as development director with the nonprofit Casa Serena residential recovery homes for women.

Then, last week, it was the boss’s turn. After 24 years as its leader, chamber chief Cushman abruptly said he was retiring in June. Why not wait until his silver anniversary? Cushman’s not returning e-mails or phone calls to answer those questions.

His official reason for leaving is to start a new business development company and spend more time on art and travels. While most published reports of his departure stress his accomplishments, none make much mention of the chamber’s recent demise and Cushman’s poor showing in his mayoral campaign a couple of years ago. In that race, 83 percent of the electorate votes against him.

Past chamber board members have said membership in the South Coast’s oldest and largest business group has waned in the past five years. Whether that’s from the effects of the recession or lackluster leadership is hard to analyze.

However, while the exact numbers are hard to access chamber leaders have said membership is down by several hundred with no signs of it increasing any time soon.

Several former chamber members and current South Coast nonprofit leaders have said they were put off by the lack of chamber events and ultimately return on their dues, which is more than several hundred dollars a year. Some have joined the thriving Downtown Organization or the Santa Barbara Convention &Visitor Bureau and Film Commission instead of the chamber.

WEV Wins Big

This year’s U.S. Small Business Administration Women’s Business Center of Excellence Award has been given to Santa Barbara-based Women’s Economic Ventures, which has been providing training and loans to small businesses for more than two decades.

Simply Gluten Free

Goleta-based Simply Pies has received a nod from the Gluten-Free Certification Organization.

While Simply Pies has offered gluten-free baked goods since it open four years ago, the timing of the certification is serendipitous since May is Celiac Awareness month.

Gluten-free certification is a process in which an independent third party tests a company’s products. With this certification, Simply Pies’ gluten-free menu items will be marked with the GF logo.

The GFCO standards allow each batch tested to be only 10 parts per million for gluten protein. The Food and Drug Administration suggests 20 ppm. Simply Pies passed the inspection with less than parts per million in its gluten0free piecrust, the company’s owners Nancy Blau and Hana Miller said.

They opened their doors in 2008 at a commercial space near downtown Santa Barbara, but outgrew that location and moved into a restaurant space in Goleta in 2010.

For more information about Simply Pies, visit www.simplypiessb.com.

No Confidence Vote

Edited by Westmont College professor David Newton, “Crisis Of Confidence,” the latest book in the “Private Enterprise and the Economy” series, will be released June 5 at a networking event in Santa Barbara.

The book was released Amazon.com on Memorial Day. A 5 to 8 p.m. book-signing is set for June 5 at the Synergy Business & Technology Center, 1 Calle Cesar Chavez, Suite 102, near Santa Barbara’s East Beach.

“Crisis Of Confidence” looks at the state of federal taxes, deficit spending, the national debt, interest on the debt, inflation, gross domestic product and entitlement programs, which are projected out in five-year stages from 2017 through 2032.

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