Regional Chamber merging logos graphic

IMPERIAL VALLEY — The Imperial Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce (IVRCC) players have been set as the new organization looks forward to hiring a new CEO.

The Regional Board offered a position in the new Regional Chamber to all existing paid staff from the merging chambers, yet as the CEOs from El Centro and Imperial sought other opportunities, the position for the new Regional CEO has moved from internal to a public hiring, according to the most recent press release.

The flying of the CEO position comes after months of assessing and consideration between the Chambers of Brawley, El Centro, Imperial, and Westmorland, with the latter three choosing to merge and Brawley ultimately choosing to stand on its own. El Centro, Imperial, and Westmorland voted to merge in December 2020.

The Executive Board of the Regional Chamber consists of equal representation from each ready-to-merge city, each represented by two board members, said Interim IVRCC Committee Chair Bari Smith of the Westmorland Chamber of Commerce.

Smith said the Regional Executive Board is currently finalizing applicants for the CEO position and working on logistics, such as the new merging entity’s bi-laws, business structure, financials, and all things legal with the assistance of attorneys “to make sure that we’re really crossing all our t’s and dotting all our i’s.”

“Really the idea (behind the Regional Chamber) is we felt like there was a lot of duplication that we were doing,” Smith said. “We thought instead of everyone doing the same work, if we could come together and share our resources and time management, we could do so much more.”

Smith said the Regional Chamber will be different from the pre-existing Imperial Valley Joint Chambers because the Joint Chamber was a group of individual chambers collaborating together for a few Valley-wide initiatives in addition to the annual Business Showcase event, the Regional Chamber pooling their resources will allow the entity to operate more efficiently to “better serve the members, better serve the business community, and have staff dedicate to specific roles” so as to “end up helping businesses more overall.”

Smith said the idea came about for at least eight years, but it didn’t come to fruition until the ball really started rolling more than one year ago.

“I didn’t go in with the idea of shaking things up, it was just a new environment for me,” Smith said. “Because I was the representative of Westmorland, I think it was a little easier for people to let the conversation start up again because we’re the small little chamber (and) we’re volunteer run. There was no threat with Westmorland being the lead.”

“I became the chair of the Regional Committee and it just kind of became my baby (but) for me there was no alternative motives because there’s nothing for me to gain,” she said. “I’m from the Valley and I want the Valley to be successful. I just kind of took the lead on it and it continued to grow.”

She said all Chambers of Commerce within the Imperial Valley were invited to join the Regional Chamber, but Calexico, Holtville, and Brawley decided not to merge at this time.

Smith said all the Chambers were given the same information to review and all drew their own conclusions from it on their own, with some Chambers polling their members and others deciding as a board.

While a Regional Chamber press release wished the non-merging chambers much success in 2021 as an independent chamber, Smith said the ultimate goal of the Regional Chamber is to expand and have all the Chambers join in, pointing to the Greater Coachella Valley Chambers’ successful merger as a model.

“The idea is to think bigger than individually but what we can do together, and the more together we get, I just think the stronger and more successful it's going to be,” she said.

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