The effects of the Great Recession have lingered longer in the Rogue Valley than many places.

The effects of the Great Recession have lingered longer in the Rogue Valley than many places.

With that in mind, Dixie Hackstedde enters her year as board chairwoman of the Chamber of Medford/Jackson County with a clear objective: Rebuild membership closer to pre-recession levels.

She will officially take the reins tonight at the chamber's annual Excellence In Business awards dinner.

For the past decade, the local organization has prided itself on being the state's "largest and most influential chamber" — despite harsh economic realities that drove many of its members out of business or to the sidelines.

"We've been through a recession, and everyone has cut back on staff, doing more with less money," said Hackstedde. "So one of the things we need to emphasize this year is growing our membership. It's not anything glamorous, but we need to increase those funds set aside for lean years, and that's where we are focused."

The chamber boasted about 1,800 members during the middle of the past decade but saw participation fall by a third. More recently the figure has climbed to about 1,300 — still far from what the organization's leaders would like.

"A big membership campaign will increase revenue for the chamber and increase its presence," Hackstedde said. "We want to continue the role we've had, and more participation will increase the bottom line so we can help businesses in our area and expand Travel Medford."

Hackstedde, an agent with John L. Scott Real Estate's Medford office, said even as membership fell, the use of chamber services grew.

"What we noticed is that members who stayed in used the chamber more than ever before," she said. "It's a great place to network and meet new clients and customers."

President and CEO Brad Hicks said Hackstedde's enthusiasm will pay off when the membership drive takes off in October.

"She's one of those people who think if you're open for business that you should be a chamber member," Hicks said. "She believes in all the things the chamber works on every day of the week. For her, building up the membership is a way to deliver tourism promotion and making sure we're vibrant as we approach our advocacy work."

Hackstedde hopes to see continued growth in downtown Medford, clean air, and new opportunities and activities for residents.

"I'd like to see uncomplicated living and easy traffic," she said. "It's a great medical and education area."

Hackstedde joined the chamber more than 10 years ago during a membership drive.

"A person needing another couple of members gave me a call," she said. "The chamber is made up of a lot of little businesses. A lot of times Realtors don't think they're the kind of business that the chamber can help, but they are."

Chamber-driven tools, such as the Business Review and directory, are useful when people arrive in the Rogue Valley.

"They are very beneficial to people looking for new vendors to work with," she said, "because the chamber is watching and hearing what's going on."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness.