IMPERIAL VALLEY – Board members and staff from five Imperial Valley Chambers of Commerce gathered on February 11, 2020 to discuss the opportunity of merging to form one Imperial Valley Chamber of Commerce (IVCC).

The idea of forming a Regional Chamber of Commerce in the Imperial Valley has been discussed for nearly ten years. However, recently the concept has been explored in more depth by a committee of Imperial Valley chamber board members: Chair Bari Smith (Westmorland Chamber), Dr. Kathleen Lang, Lee Hindman (Brawley Chamber), AJ Gaddis, Mark Gran (Imperial Chamber), Julie Velasco (Holtville Chamber), Anne Irigoyen, and Victor Nava (El Centro Chamber).

The committee has looked at regional chamber success models such as The Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce as well as conducted SWOT analyses of several Imperial Valley chambers to explore where the opportunities are to create a stronger chamber of commerce for members.

“The concept of merging is only in the beginning stages but we are excited about the growth, resources, and advocacy a regional chamber would bring to the business community in the Imperial Valley”, said Chair Bari Smith.

During the February 11 meeting the chambers of Westmorland, Brawley, Imperial, El Centro, and Calexico committed to moving forward in discussing the opportunity of a Regional Chamber. Each respective chamber will appoint up to two representatives that will form a Regional Chamber Committee. The Committee will work together to create a (non-contractual) Imperial Valley Chamber of Commerce (IVCC) business model.

Upon finalization of the IVCC business model all Imperial Valley chambers of commerce (regardless of participation in the committee) will be invited to review the model and merge.

“Our collective goal is to act in the best interest of our members", Smith said. "Chamber members are the heart of the chamber and their input, interest and ultimately support of regionalization is the critical step to the concept of a regional chamber moving forward. We are hopeful that a regional chamber would bring greater resources and increased efficiencies to members. Even with the business communities support, the process for (participating) chambers to merge would not happen overnight and would likely be early 2021.”

The Regional Chamber Committee will hold an informational meeting Tuesday, February 18, at 7 p.m. in the Frank Wright Middle School auditorium at 885 North Imperial Ave, Imperial. The business community is invited to attend to share feedback, ask questions, and to learn more about the concept of a regional chamber of commerce.

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