When an opportunity for change presents itself, it does not always mean a change is necessary. It is, however, a chance to look at how things are working and see if they can function more effectively.
Such an opportunity presents itself following the sudden resignation of Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce president Charlie Ross last week.
Right now, hundreds of Valley businesses representing thousands of workers are separate, but possibly not equal. The reason is that the Valley is represented by five different chambers of commerce, including the Greater Susquehanna Valley, Central Pennsylvania, Brush Valley, Columbia Montour Chamber and Williamsport/Lycoming chambers.
Individually, each of these units has its own mission statement and business plan, its own opportunities and challenges. Many of their programs are successful. Companies from one end of the Valley to the other benefit from training, networking, access and information.
Based on their websites, 800 businesses that represent more than 25,000 employees are in the GSVCC, based in Shamokin Dam. The Central Pennsylvania Chamber, out of Milton, counts its membership goals close to 400. Include the other three chambers and you are talking more than 2,000 businesses with thousands of employees each vying for similar attention and opportunities.
What if there were more companies to learn from, to network with rather than compete against? Would that not open doors to more growth, physically and financially, for Valley businesses and help strengthen our communities?
Regionalization has proven successful for expanding services while consolidating costs by taking advantage of operational and strategic synergies.
The Buffalo Valley Regional Police merged forces from Lewisburg and East Buffalo Township more than a year ago and the move has worked well for both municipalities. The Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way is regional as well, bringing its philanthropic work under one umbrella.
Merging chambers into a more powerful voice for business and community is at least worth another look. It seems like the idea could work because a group representing 1,200 businesses and a broader region of the state would certainly be more than formidable.
Valley communities are more similar than they are different. We are college towns and farming communities. We host similar educational, health and welfare institutions and have a variety of business interests in common.
Our chambers of commerce should look at what separates us and judge how these barriers are helpful.