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Chamber, EDG merger overwhelmingly approved

June 14th, 2017

By Joseph Slacian | The Paper of Wabash County

Members of the Wabash County Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Group of Wabash County voted overwhelmingly to merge the two groups into one.

The new organization will be known as the Wabash County Business Alliance.

Chamber members voted 112-1 for the merger, while EDG members voted 64-0 for the change.

“Collectively, our investors voted 176-1 to support the transition,” Transition Board chair Emily Boardman said in a news release. “This result is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the members of the transition board, our staff and many volunteers who believed in a bold new direction for growing Wabash County. It is also a testament to our investors who embraced this idea and had confidence in the collaboration possible within the new Wabash County Business Alliance,”

Less than 40 percent of the Chamber’s 285 members voted on the issue, while 62 percent of EDG’s 103 members cast ballots.

“While we would have loved to have had a response from every member of both organizations, it's not realistic that everyone will respond despite our mailing, emails, and other communications,” said Keith Gillenwater, who was tabbed before the vote to head the new organization, should it be formed. “We are happy though as both organizations thresholds for votes cast and votes cast in favor were met.  

“We are happy with the results as we only received one vote in opposition to the merger, and an overwhelming response in favor.”

The switch will become official on June 30, according to the news release. The new organization will have the mission statement “Together, Growing a Prosperous Wabash County.”

“I am excited to take the helm of the new Wabash County Business Alliance, Inc.,” Gillenwater, who is presently EDG president and CEO, said. “Wabash County has a bright future ahead and our new organization is set to continue to build upon the legacy of the many great accomplishments EDG and Chamber have built over the previous years while being better positioned to tackle new challenges our community faces, like the threat of population decline, workforce development concerns and embracing livability enhancements.”

The group has already formed a board of directors. Those on the board include Parker Beauchamp, INGUARD; Emily Boardman, Crossroads Bank; Jason Callahan, Wabash City Schools; Marilyn Custer-Mitchell, Parkview Wabash Hospital; Keith Gillenwater, Wabash County Business Alliance, Inc.; Lisa Gilman, Redemption Development, LLC; Patty Grant, Wabash County Community Foundation; Brian Haupert, Wabash County Commissioner; Bob Krouse, Midwest Poultry Services; Clint Kugler, Wabash County YMCA; Gary Larson, The Ford Meter Box Company; Scott Long, Wabash City Mayor; Paul McCann, Dawes & Pugh, CPA’s; Tod Minnich, Honeywell Foundation; and Adam Penrod, Town of North Manchester.

The board and various committees will be meeting over the next several weeks to organize and plan for the operations of the new organization.

One of the questions to be determined is what the merger will mean for membership dues.

“As for a dues structure et al, our new board and staff are working through all of these items that need to be addressed for the transition over the next several months and will keep our members informed and solicit their feedback as we work through the many tasks ahead of us,” Gillenwater told The Paper. “I would, however, anticipate having a new dues structure in place for 2018.”

During the transition, officials expect the two organizations’ operations and events to continue as usual, with the next event being the WACCY Golf Outing on June 7 at the Honeywell Golf Course in Wabash

“I appreciate our members and investors support in giving us such a clear response that they are supportive of the organizational changes we proposed,” Gillenwater said. “I am also thankful to the transition board for their hard work and dedication to bring this to fruition, and to the many current and past board and staff members associated with the EDG and Chamber for setting us up for success with the great work and accomplishments they've had that paved the way forward for the Wabash County Business Alliance.”

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