Wabash County EDG, Chamber merger finalized: To address population loss

July 10th, 2017

By Mackenzi Klemann for the Wabash Plain Dealer | Indiana Economic Digest

The Wabash County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Group of Wabash County (EDG) merged late last month, but transition work will continue for the foreseeable future, according to the organization’s president and CEO, Keith Gillenwater.

Formally known as the Wabash Business Alliance, or Grow Wabash County, the new organization will focus on growth in addition to traditional business support and attraction.

“We’re trying to address population loss,” Gillenwater explained.

Decades of population decline have cost the community jobs and tax dollars, which Gillenwater believes will reach a critical level within the next 30 years unless the trend is reversed.

Gillenwater has no plans to eliminate the programming previously offered by the Chamber and EDG, though.

“We want to continue with all of those things, because that’s a vital role that we play for the community,” he said. “As we go forward we’ll see if there are opportunities to tweak some (programs) that fit closely with our mission. I think there are some opportunities to build upon some of these events.

“Are we growing a prosperous Wabash County by doing this? If it passes that test then it’s something that we continue. If it’s something that no one can figure out why it’s done, that’s probably something that we might not continue.”

The merger was proposed last summer after long-time Chamber president Kim Pinkerton retired, leaving the organization without a full-time director.

A transition board was formed to pursue the possibility of consolidating the two organizations, which already shared an office above Wabash City Hall and served similar purposes.

The merger was then approved during a membership vote taken in May in which all but one of the 177 EDG and Chamber members favored consolidation.

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