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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Merged chamber expected to keep local offices

  • Anticipated merger of three local chambers of commerce will still allow for local chamber offices and current level of staffing, James Shook, president of the Pocono Lake Region Chamber of Commerce said. Hailing the merger as an important step for the growth of their combined mission, he said he expects their joint membership of nearly 700 could swell to 1,000 in three or four years.
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  • Anticipated merger of three local chambers of commerce will still allow for local chamber offices and current level of staffing, James Shook, president of the Pocono Lake Region Chamber of Commerce said. Hailing the merger as an important step for the growth of their combined mission, he said he expects their joint membership of nearly 700 could swell to 1,000 in three or four years.
    Pocono Lake Region Chamber of Commerce, Southern Wayne Regional Chamber of Commerce and Wayne County Chamber of Commerce are poised to become one under the single name, "The Chamber of the Northern Poconos." Invitations have gone out to the members of each organization to come together January 15th at Ehrhardt's Waterfront Banquet Center, where they the measure will be put to a vote.
    Pending approval, the merger will require a period of transition. A new logo for the combined chamber will be presented January 15th, but incorporation will still need to take place. Shook said that the goal is to be able to dissolve the three separate chamber corporations and work under the new name and logo by the end of 2014.
    He said they expect to keep the separate boards as committees, with some directors moving up to a newly created executive board. They will likely have one executive director and a one main board operational in about three years, Shook estimated. As time goes on they will see whether to phase out the current executive director posts. That decision would "be down the road," he said.
    Shook noted that Patty Blaum retired in 2013 as Executive Director of the Southern Wayne group, and her duties have been kept up by their other office personnel. A decision hasn't been made about filling that role.
    The combined chamber will look at consolidating programs as well. Successful events that are run in each area are likely to go on. Speaking for the Pocono Lake Region Chamber, Shook said that the highly successful craft fairs in Bingham Park are expected to continue, as will the Ice Tee Tournament and Chili & Wings contest fund-raiser.
    He said that the Chamber's classic car show held in October will probably be discontinued. While well enjoyed, he noted that the event is highly weather dependent and there are many other car shows in the area.
    The Ice Tee Tournament, scheduled this year for January 26, is also dependent on the weather, but Shook said with a combined chamber having other successful fund-raisers, it would not be so much of a loss if weather didn't favor the golf game on Lake Wallenpaupack.
    Meetings and banquets will be consolidated, which Shook said will be a big plus.
    A single web site will also be developed, to help better market the area.
    He said that the "Northern Poconos" distinction in the new name was developed by the Strategic Planning Committee. They wish to brand the combined chamber so that is more attractive to potential members from outside the area as well as be more quickly recognizable nationally. "Lake Region," for instance, while understood locally, is a phrase used in numerous other areas of the country. "There is only one Poconos," he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Membership requirements and benefits will be streamlined, although they presently are very similar for the three chambers.
    By being merged into a single, large chamber, Shook affirmed they can expect to have increased clout when lobbying for statutes or regulations that affect businesses and the local economy.
    When these chambers were formed- Wayne County Chamber in 1929 (as Honesdale Chamber of Commerce), Pocono Lake Region in 1926 (as Hawley Chamber of Commerce) and Southern Wayne in 1987, they were by nature more territorial, Shook observed. Today, with modern technology to help a business owner get the word out to their customers, it doesn't make sense to be redundant, he said.
    Merging allows a great savings in cost and duplication. Values of membership will be enhanced and members will be stronger for it, Shook observed.
    The January 15th meeting begins with a Meet & Greet at 11:15 a.m. with the luncheon at noon. The consultant for this initiative, Scott J. Weiland, Ph.D., will discuss the process and answer questions.
    To make reservations contact the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, 32 Commercial St., Honesdale, by calling 570-253-1960 or e-mail info@waynecountycc.com. The luncheon cost is $25 and reservations are needed by January 10th.
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