Chamber, Northwest Economic Council in merger talks

By Isaac Bonnell

The Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Northwest Economic Council have announced plans to merge the two organizations.

The chamber was first approached by the NWEC about a year ago and the idea was looked at in earnest this spring, said chamber President and CEO Ken Oplinger.

Consolidating the largest business organization in the county and the largest economic development organization in the county would bring about cost savings and allow them to pool resources. Plus, the missions of the two organizations are so similar that it just makes sense, Oplinger said.

The two groups have signed a memorandum to further explore the details of a merger, such as budgeting and staffing. That process is expected to last until late December, when a final announcement is expected.

“At this point, both sides are very open to making this thing work,” Oplinger said.

This type of merger is becoming a trend all over the country and has already taken place in Spokane and Ellensburg, Oplinger said.

If all goes as planned, the new organization will launch in January with a new name. The group is also planning to recruit a managing director/COO, which will be a new position in the enlarged organization.

“This is an outstanding and timely opportunity to create an effective organization that meets all the economic development needs of our community as well as strengthening our partnership with state and local governments, including the small cities,” NWEC Chairman Bruce MacCormack said in a press release.

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