Connor Kealey, OMN Illustrator
Choosing between the multitude of restaurants, stores and activities available in Corvallis, Ore. has been made much easier with the launch of Experience Corvallis, a community app spearheaded by the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce.
The app has four main features: an interactive map, a community calendar, a tab for all things Parks and Recreation and a resource tab.
Simon Date, the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce president says the calendar is his favorite function of the app, as is the fact that it’s free to use for any local business owner or community member.
“If you were going to go to lunch today, I’m sure on the top of your head you’ve got three or four places that you typically go to,” Date said. “You may not know some of these other places even exist. But in the categories [with- in the calendar], you get exposure to other businesses you may not even be aware of.”
Planning and designing the app was an undertaking for Date, who is the only paid employee in the Chamber. The idea for the app first came about in early 2021, but it wasn’t until January of this year that Date began forming community partnerships and contacting app developers.
Two community partners were involved in the process—Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments—who provided a start-up grant, and the Gillott Home Team, a real estate office in the Mid-Willamette area who is the main sponsor for the app.
“Since I’m a board member and ambassa- dor for the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce, Simon and I have a lot of conversations about bringing value to the community, support- ing businesses and also bringing commu- nity members and businesses together to equally support each other,” said Michele Mincinski, lead agent for the Gillott Home Team’s Benton-County division. “He did a lot of research on other communities and other Chambers and how they support their communities and an app was used in another community that he really loved and he brought that forward… It really seemed like a natural partnership.”
As the main sponsor for the app, the Gillott Home Team funded the initial ver- sion of the app and also financed the app’s launch party to introduce it officially to the community.
Since its launch, Date and Mincinski have continued brainstorming ways to improve the ways that the community can connect with different types of local businesses. What Date calls the “Chamber of Choices” is a feature within the app that allows for users to filter out categories based on specific aspects of the businesses or business owners.
“You as a consumer may want to say, ‘You know what, I am hungry, I want to get something to eat’ but I also want to support a woman-owned business or one that is LGBTQ+ friendly, or has bilingual material in the store,” Date said. “It’s a way for you to shop socially about something you care about.”
The Chamber also has plans to add a fea- ture that will allow for users to order food for take-out directly through the app in the late summer or fall.
“Hopefully we end up keeping money a little bit more local so if people need to stop and eat somewhere local then great, they can do that,” Date said.
The overall goal of the app should be to continue to foster community between local businesses and community members, Date said, and the Chamber will continue to take feedback as more people use the app.
“The app is a work in progress, it’s fairly new,” Mincinski said. “As community mem- bers and businesses members are more used to submitting their events to the Chamber, that will make the app even more robust so it’s really a go-to for all things Corvallis. I’m really excited for that.”