By SHERRI KOLADE
The Dearborn and Dearborn Heights chambers of commerce will become one organization known as the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce, starting officially July 1.
The seed to start a joint chamber was planted about two years ago when a speaker at a Dearborn Chamber event discussed the idea of sharing resources, not duplicating services, said Wendy Fichter, director of small business development for the Dearborn Area Chamber.
“I think we’ve got everything worked out,” Fichter said. “That is why it took so long.”
The development stages included forming committees and focus groups, and combining 150 members in the Dearborn Heights Chamber with 500 members in the Dearborn Chamber, totaling 650 members in the new chamber — and that was half the process.
Jennifer Giering, president of the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce, said some members questioned the new chamber’s ability to serve a larger geographic area, but in the end, chamber and board members voted for the merge.
“The question specifically was whether we could accommodate a focus on small businesses and the answer to that questions is yes,” Giering said. “We can serve a broad geographic area and the Dearborn Area Chamber is made up of chamber members as far away as Novi, Detroit and Allen Park.”
Fichter added the one negative aspect was that people might feel that Dearborn Heights is not identified as a separate community but swallowed up in the “Dearborn area” term.
“But Dearborn Heights is in the Dearborn area,” Fichter said. “Now we are much larger chamber and bigger voice in community. We have more members, more people to interact with.”
During the development process, the chambers also spoke with other cities who merged their own chambers, including Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti’s joint chamber, Fichter said.
A new segment of the Dearborn Area Chamber includes small business development, where Fichter will focus on helping small business, Giering said.
“Wendy will have a laser focus on making sure smaller business are served in this region,” she said.
The office of the Dearborn Area Chamber will be in the Bryant Library, 22100 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn, home of the current Dearborn Chamber office.
“When you bring two entities together, you are adding staff value and efficiencies,” Giering said. “It makes tremendous sense from a business perspective to run both organizations under one roof; and now instead of having two newsletters, two buildings to maintain, two fax machines, two board of directors, you eliminate redundancy and you create more capacity in the organization to tackle more projects.”
The Dearborn Heights Chamber of Commerce originally had one full-time staff member and the former Dearborn Chamber of Commerce had three-full time staff members. Now the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce will have four full-time staffers. And both sets of the Dearborn and Dearborn Heights chamber board members will form one board and will remain until their term is up, Giering said.
“We can grow as an organization, working to serve needs,” she said.
(Sherri Kolade can be reached at [email protected].)