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Agencies explore organizational merger in Lewis County

Posted 8/6/22

The lead economic development agency, the Lewis County Industrial Development Authority, and the lead membership and tourism promotion agency, the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, are …

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Agencies explore organizational merger in Lewis County

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LOWVILLE — The lead economic development agency, the Lewis County Industrial Development Authority, and the lead membership and tourism promotion agency, the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, are taking the idea of “partnership” to the next level and exploring the feasibility of an organizational merger that would consolidate services, resources, and staff under one umbrella organization.

The potential new organization, called Naturally Lewis, would be a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, leading economic, business and tourism development efforts for Lewis County, according to an announcement on Friday.

“It is good to acknowledge that while each organization has a strong history of serving Lewis County, their current structures also have some fundamental limitations. A more formal collaboration offers the opportunity to bolster the impact of their respective strengths in growing our community,” said Joe Lawrence, Lewis County IDA board chairman.

“The merger of these two entities is a natural fit,” said Nick Mir, Lewis County Chamber of Commerce chairman. “The Chamber and Naturally Lewis have been working together on collaborative projects for years now. Many of the services they offer compliment and even overlap with each other. Bringing all of these services under one umbrella will help streamline these processes, capitalize on resources, and result in even better opportunities for Lewis County businesses.”

The Board of Directors of the Lewis County IDA, Lewis County Development Corporation (LCDC) and the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce have been in discussions for the past six months on the potential for a merger, and since the start of the pandemic in 2020, further partnerships, collaboration and strategic planning among the three entities solidified the need for a more streamlined approach to economic, business and tourism development in Lewis County, the announcement added.

The proposed new organization, Naturally Lewis, supported by a membership network, would provide business and organizational support services, leading ultimately to enhanced communities, a broadened tax base and a better quality of life for all, officials said.

Under a new board of directors, the organization would retain all employees of the Lewis County IDA and Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, and as part of the transition, the organization would acquire all current and future economic development strategic priorities.

These focuses include business development and support services, property and site redevelopment projects, tourism development and promotion initiatives, placemaking and community building initiatives, marketing and promotion of Lewis County as a great place to live, work, build business and play, membership services and events and collaboration with communities, that are already being led by the Lewis County IDA, LCDC and Lewis County Chamber of Commerce. 

The merger would also allow for the consolidation and streamlining of staff, finances and budgets, programming, marketing and communications, fundraising, human resources, technology and facilities to one organization, officials added.

Lewis County Development Corporation Chairman, Tim Petersen, said “The [potential] merger of the organizations provides an effective means to leverage the unique capabilities of each organization into a single entity that otherwise would not be possible if the organizations continued to operate independently. This merger only strengthens ability to grow the economy in Lewis County.

Executive Director of the Lewis County IDA, Brittany Davis, said “Our continued collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce has led to great opportunities for our business community. A merger of the economic development and Chamber organizations would streamline, consolidate resources, clarify staff roles, eliminate any duplication of efforts, and provide Lewis County communities with even greater opportunities for the future.” 

Executive Director of the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, Kristen Aucter, said “Looking at both of our agencies, from very high-level strategy down to daily tasks, we identified many potential opportunities for a more unified and efficient structure to help serve our local businesses and communities.”

The potential partnership would create an organization offering more services to our business and organizations than ever before.  In strategic planning meetings, the three entities saw that a combined organization would bring clarity on who we are and what we do in our communities, providing opportunities to refocus efforts, consolidate resources, support businesses and communities more effectively, highlighting our strengths and creating an even better place for people to live, work, build business and play.   

Although the partnership is still in feasibility and research phase, the staff and board members of the three organizations are looking for feedback from the current Lewis County Chamber of Commerce membership, local businesses, community members, residents and tourists, alike.  

Please visit https://naturallylewis.com/news/merger to provide your feedback on an economic development and Chamber of Commerce merger. 

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