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Exciting work has begun at the Jackson-Belden Chamber of Commerce and the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce. As announced in November, executives and volunteer leaders at both chambers are studying ways that the two organizations could collaborate more extensively for the good of the region’s businesses and the community that the two chambers serve.

That collaboration could result in a merger.

Members of both organizations are probably wondering what this work involves. Here’s a look at the process.

Both chambers have engaged consultant David Ramey of Dayton, president of Strategic Leadership Associates. His firm has expertise in strategic planning and organization for chambers of commerce. Ramey is leading a joint merger study team consisting of about five members each from both the Jackson-Belden and the Canton Regional chambers.

“We are very pleased with the team’s dedication and commitment toward what true collaboration looks like and how the businesses in the region will benefit.” said Steven M. Meeks, president of the Jackson-Belden Chamber.

“The goal of this work is an unprecedented level of service and advocacy for the business community. Stark County businesses have never seen what our two organizations are trying to create,” said Dennis P. Saunier, president and CEO of the Canton Regional Chamber. 

The framework for this study will include: 

  • Mission and Vision
  • Strategic Goals
  • Integration of Core Capabilities (of each entity)
  • Membership Structure
  • Financial Structure
  • Governance Structure
  • Staffing Structure
  • Program Leadership Structure
  • Articulated Value to the Community and its Stakeholders
  • Asset Integration or Restrictions
  • Transition Process Steps
  • Timeline for the Merger
  • Process for presenting the merger to each organization’s respective Board of Directors
  • Name and Brand 

This deliberative process will take place over the next few months. “This is not easy work, but I think it is exciting work, and I believe that the volunteer leaders of our two organizations would agree,” Saunier said.

“The data compiled will show what each organization’s strengths and weaknesses are and how possibly working together will create a more conducive, streamlined organization, with a focus on better serving the business community.” Meeks said. 

If the result of the work is a merger recommendation from the joint merger study team, that recommendation would be sent for review to both chambers’ boards of directors. If a proposal passed review by both boards, it then would be sent to the members of both organizations for a vote to approve the merger proposal.

The Jackson-Belden Chamber has about 800 members, and 300 of those members may also be members of the Canton Regional Chamber. Jackson-Belden sponsors a wide variety of business development and member networking events. It also has an active Ambassadors program and a young professionals organization.

The Canton Regional Chamber has about 1,600 members and serves the greater Canton region in business and economic development outreach. It also concentrates on development of the core assets of the city of Canton. It, too, has a young professionals program, operates Leadership Stark County and organizes the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival in cooperation with the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Jackson-Belden and Canton Regional already collaborate on the festival, with Jackson-Belden sponsoring the annual Music Fest and Fireworks event and Canton Regional Chamber sponsoring the Balloon Classic. Both events are conducted simultaneously at the Kent State University at Stark Campus. 

Both chambers have significant common interests in the development of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and its Hall of Fame Village, which is expected to create significant economic development and tourism-industry opportunities.

Both chambers also have programs in small-business development.

The next few months could bring historic change for both organizations, but only if it is change the serves the interest of each organization and its members.