Chambers to host focus groups on merger

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

The Huntingburg and Ferdinand chambers of commerce are continuing to explore merging into a single chamber of commerce.

The two chambers announced their intent to merge in 2018. Since then, an exploratory committee made up of leaders from both chambers formed to gauge community interest. The committee began with online surveys and conversations with local business and community leaders and will finish the exploratory phase this month with three focus group sessions.

So far, the community seems receptive.

“We were getting a lot of, ‘It’s about time,’ and ‘For a county our size, it makes sense,’” said Sara Schroeder, executive director of the Huntingburg Chamber of Commerce.

Schroeder and Mike Blume, executive director of the Ferdinand Chamber of Commerce, stressed that the process is still in the exploratory phase and that no final decision has been made.

During the focus groups, committee members will ask participants to expand on answers to questions from the surveys, such as what are the benefits of merging, what are some downsides and how a unified chamber could overcome the downsides.

The community sessions are: 8 a.m. Tuesday at the Huntingburg Chamber Office, 327 E. Fourth Street; 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 28, at the CTIM building at Vincennes University Jasper Campus; and 8 a.m. Wednesday, May 29, at the Ferdinand Branch Library, 112 W. 16th St.

Those interested in attending the sessions should RSVP to chamberconnect19@gmail.com and state which session they will attend.

Following the sessions, the exploratory committee will compile all the information they’ve gathered and present it to the boards of the Huntingburg and Ferdinand chambers of commerce. Each board will then vote on the merge. Schroeder said she expects that vote to happen in mid-June.

If the votes are in favor of a merge, the two chambers will enter a transition period that will last the rest of 2019, Schroeder said. The new chamber would begin Jan. 1, 2020. The transition is planned this way because memberships in both chambers run on an annual basis from January through December.

Schroeder said community feedback is central to the process.

“We really want people to participate in it,” she said. “How we shape this new chamber will depend on the information we get.”

No matter the outcome of the merge, Schroeder said, both chambers want to serve the community and local businesses as best they can.




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