Last week, the chamber community gathered to put the finishing touches on a merger between three area organizations. The Southern Wayne Chamber, Pocono Lake Region Chamber and Wayne County Chamber have decided to merge into one organization. This new Chamber, called the Chamber of the Northern Poconos, will function keeping the motto, "The Heart of Commerce in Wayne, Pike, the Lake Region and Beyond" close to their decisions. Over the past several months, a team of directors with representation from each chamber took part in a number of collaborative strategic planning sessions. The goal was to determine how to best serve members while promoting positive growth and prosperity for the region. President of the Wayne County Chamber Todd Stephens said this merger was not an overnight decision, but was carefully planned between the other two chambers. "We've been working on it for almost a year," he said. "And we've been talking about it for longer than that." He continued by saying, "This new regional organization will provide a number of benefits to our members and to our community," said Stephens yesterday. "Regionalization is such a powerful tool. The more you are connected to your neighbors, the better off you'll be." With their resources combined, Stephens feels that the new chamber will be able to function even better for its members and their respective communities. One of the benefits of having just one chamber is the ability to maximize efforts to create a strong schedule of happenings in the northern Pocono region. "Having one chamber will allow us to combine those efforts and have a real powerful events schedule," he said. Positive effects Stephens said another benefit of having one chamber to meet the needs of the business population will help the community as well. "A definite positive effect of this merger is member businesses will no longer have to pay more than one membership fee." Prior to the merge, businesses had to choose which chamber, or chambers, to be a part of. To belong to more than one organization required payment of more than one fee. "Saving money is at the top of the list for a small business owner," he said. "With this merge, not only will it be cost saving, it will improve their exposure regionally." The valuable programs "we can offer now will be available across a broader spectrum." Another benefit of the merge is the Chamber of the Northern Poconos will be able to better advocate for the needs of the members. "We can better advocate for our members," he said. "The combined chamber will have an estimated 700 members. We anticipate being one of the largest organizations of this kind in northeastern Pennsylvania." Having such a large amount of members will also allow the chamber to represent the needs of local business owners even at the state level. "Having a group that is around 700 members strong will really get some attention in Harrisburg," when it comes to legislation, he said. This Chamber will also allow members to participate in events across the board. An example of this is the Community Awards Banquet the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce sponsors. "That banquet is one of my favorite events. It's a really terrific thing to recognize people. Now, members of all three chambers will be eligible to earn recognition." Regional benefits The benefits of this chamber powerhouse will stretch beyond its members to the community. Prior to the merge, Stephens said the chambers "always thought about how we can combine forces with other chambers. It's really about economic development and quality of life." Those two aspects are intertwined, he said. "You can't have one without the other. You have to have good paying jobs so that the quality of life is here." While working together to form one entity, Stephens said all of the chambers really clicked. "We're all very excited about it," he said. "We're all volunteer members of the board and to get a group of people together from all three cambers to sit around and talk this out for hours, you would expect people to be guarded." That, Stephens said, was not the case. "It was highly collaborative. We have the perfect elements to create this opportunity for the region." Community input While the chamber does have a board, the organization is first and foremost a community oriented entity. "We welcome people to come out and join us at our meeting on January 15, 2014," Stephens said. "We really want our members to be as involved as possible." At that meeting, held at Ehrhardt's Waterfront Resort, the three chambers will vote on whether or not to proceed with the merger. He added that you do not have to be a member of any chamber to attend the meeting. "We welcome people to get involved. It's their organization, first and foremost. It's a very welcoming organization." The Joint Chamber Membership Meeting will begin at 11:15 a.m. on Jan. 15, 2014. A luncheon buffet will follow at noon. Advanced reservations are required and the ticket price is $25 per person. The guest speaker is Scott J. Weiland, Ph.D., consultant for the tri-chamber merger initiative. A membership vote will be taken at this meeting. Deadline to register is Jan. 10, 2014. Persons interested in registering for this meeting can contact the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce at 570-253-1960.