EAST LIVERPOOL - Believing the adage, "there's strength in numbers," a committee composed of members from the East Liverpool and Calcutta chambers of commerce is advocating a merger between the two entities.
A vote has been taken by members of the East Liverpool Area Chamber of Commerce, while members of the Calcutta Area Chamber of Commerce will be voting within the next week on a proposal to create the Southern Columbiana County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Officials of the East Liverpool chamber recently released information on the proposed merger, saying the two chambers have successfully partnered in several projects over the past few years.
Among those projects were the spring banquet, business breakfast forums and business after hours, which officials said proved to be popular while confirming the "common purpose" of both chambers.
Over the past 12 months, representatives of both chambers have been meeting in an attempt to combine them with the belief a combined chamber will lead to a stronger organization to advocate for the business community in southern Columbiana County while offering additional benefits to its members.
They pointed to a successful merger of chambers in Mahoning County as an example of why they believe a similar merger will work in Columbiana County.
Those involved in the planning committee were Todd Alexander and Joe Shemasek of the East Liverpool chamber; Tom Wolfe, Dan Wolfe and Rocky Sanford of the Calcutta chamber; and Mike Sigler and Mike Parkes, members of both chambers.
After reviewing the purpose, by-laws, dues structure, executive director job description, office locations, budget and membership information of both chambers, the committee recommended a merger to the boards of both chambers.
Subsequently, both boards of directors met separately in September and approved the recommendations. They are now presenting the idea to their respective memberships.
In addition to new by-laws, due structure and executive director job description, the committee has recommended a 20-director board for the merged chamber that will include nine from each of the original chambers, a township trustee or designee and the mayor of East Liverpool or a designee.
Officers for the first year for the merged chamber will be Alexander, president; Dan Wolfe, president-elect; Shemasek, past president; with a treasurer to be named.
The new chamber will retain office space in both downtown East Liverpool and Calcutta.
Alexander said whether or not the two current executive directors Pam Hoppel, East Liverpool and Debbie Smith, Calcutta will be retained, or even if one or two directors will be hired, will be up to the new board of directors, if and when the merger is approved.
"We believe this is the right thing to do," Alexander said Wednesday, saying if members vote in favor, the merger could take place by the end of the week.
Asked why a "southern" county chamber will be formed instead of a county-wide chamber, Alexander said, "We needed to start somewhere. The door is not closed to any chamber that wants to join. If it's a success, we will probably go out and talk to other chambers."
Although the Wellsville Area Chamber of Commerce had initially considered merging along with East Liverpool and Calcutta, Alexander said, "Wellsville decided to remain separate for the time being, but the door is always open. We believe there is strength in numbers."
If by any chance one or the other chamber membership opposed the merger, Alexander said, any concerns leading to the opposition would be discussed and the move toward a merger would be continued.