Chambers announce unification plan

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Merged chamber presents advantages, difficulties

By John Friedlein

After almost two years of work, officials of the county’s four chambers of commerce on Tuesday announced a plan for unification.
The proposal — revealed by the Heartland Chambers Alliance during a news conference at ZoZo’s Café in Radcliff — included a diagram of leadership structure and other details, such as office location, monthly meeting suggestions and staffing.
Chamber officials called Tuesday a historic day.
The consolidation hasn’t been finalized, though. Members of each chamber expect to vote next month on whether to proceed with the plan. Two-thirds majorities will be necessary.
Executive committees of the four chambers already have voted in favor of unification.
Chamber officials on Tuesday e-mailed the proposal to members and invited them to an open forum at 6 p.m. Monday at New Highland Elementary School.
If members approve, the chambers could unite by the end of next year’s first quarter, said Rik Hawkins, president of the Elizabethtown-Hardin County Chamber of Commerce.
That would create an organization with close to 1,000 members — one with a more inclusive, powerful voice, Alliance members said.
“We want all of Hardin County at the table,” said Jo Emary, outgoing executive director of the Radcliff-Hardin County Chamber of Commerce. “Each community has something to offer a bigger organization.”
The board of directors for the tentatively named Hardin County Chamber of Commerce would be made up of councils with representatives from areas such as military affairs, agriculture, education and health care. Also, non-profits, businesses and smaller towns — such as Cecilia and Eastview — could participate. The board would have 18 voting members.
Also on the board will be advisory committees from each town that now has a chamber. These also include Vine Grove and West Point.
The executive committee would have six members.
To choose a president or an executive director of the unified chamber, there will be an “extensive search,” according to a news release. The Elizabethtown and Radcliff chamber offices will be used jointly for up to five years before the organization moves into a central location in the area of John Hardin High School, which sits on the border between the two towns.
Besides the executive director, staff will include an events coordinator, a membership development coordinator and administrative assistants.
Luncheons and other monthly meetings are proposed throughout the community. These may be tied to events such as Hooray for Heroes in Radcliff and West Point Days.
Organizers plan to continue major chamber-sponsored events, said Mary Jo King with the alliance.
Also, if members give the go-ahead, two teams will be assembled before Christmas. One will work on details such as bylaws and the other will search for an executive director.
As for dues, payments could be slightly higher for members of a single chamber but lower for those who, for instance, belong to all four chambers. The amounts are based on number of employees.
Unification would maximize resources, expand networking opportunities and create a united advocate at state and federal legislative levels, according an Alliance press release.
“Our mission is to accomplish collectively what we cannot accomplish individually,” according to the release.
John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746.