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Chamber Executive Article Archive

The Urge to Merge: A Merger Timeline

Katherine House

Winter 2012

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A Merger Timeline

By Jaye Baillie, APR, IOM, president and CEO of the Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce in Ocala, Fla.

In Ocala, Fla., informal merger discussions between the Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce and the Ocala/Marion County Economic Development Corp. had occurred for some time, but they became formal in January, 2011, when the chamber chair initiated board discussion. The dialog centered on economies and efficiencies, but more importantly, would a merged organization with a unified economic and community agenda help our community fast forward out of double digit unemployment? And would that agenda provide a vision for the future of Ocala/Marion County? The vote to trigger the discussion was unanimous.

2011
  January:   Chamber board votes to open discussion of a merger with the EDC
  February:   EDC Board votes to explore the concept
  March:   An exploratory committee, with representatives from both organizations, was appointed.
  May:  

Joint board retreat was held with the following tasks identified:
• Provide a comprehensive, long-term economic strategy for the community
• Improve the business development services delivery system
• Develop a comprehensive economic strategy with external metrics (using the Florida Chamber’s Six Pillar concept: Talent Supply & Education, Innovation & Economic Development, Infrastructure & Growth Leadership, Business Climate & Competitiveness, Civic & Governance Systems and Quality of Life & Quality Places
• Find the most efficient and effective ways to execute the strategy and services

  April-July:   Exploratory committee held regularly scheduled meetings to analyze strategic plans, budgets, staffing, facilities, and revenue sources (including dues and private and public sector investors). The committee researched other merged organizations and identified best practices of chambers and EDCs.
  August:  

Exploratory committee presented their findings and recommendations to a joint meeting of the chamber and EDC executive committees, which unanimously approved a recommendation to merge to be presented to a joint meeting of the two organizations. Both boards voted affirmatively on the recommendation to merge.

The exploratory committee transitioned to a Merger Leadership Group, retaining several members of the original exploratory group and adding new representation from the EDC and chamber boards. The chairs of the exploratory committee remained in their leadership roles for the newly formed group.

  September:   A decision was made to issue an RFP to retain a consultant with both merger and capital campaign experience.
  October:   24 proposals were received from across the nation.
  November:   The Merger Leadership Group narrowed the field to two, and conducted in-person interviews
  December:   The team selected two consultants, TIP Strategies of Austin, Texas (for strategic direction, merger plan and organizational structure) and Convergent Nonprofit Solutions, Atlanta (for the capital campaign).
2012    
  January:   Initial visit by the consultants for kick-off meeting to outline the scope of work and to begin the initial series of interviews with key community and government leaders.
  Feb.-March:   Interviews continue along with formulation of the merger plan.
  Spring:   Final plan approval anticipated with roll-out and launch of capital campaign.

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