Membership votes to combine chambers to be known as Williamson County Chamber of Commerce
By Donna O'Neil, Managing Editor
By the flip of the next calendar page, the historic unification of three Williamson County chambers into one will likely be legal and therefore, official.
The membership of the Williamson County-Franklin Chamber, the Brentwood Cool Springs Chamber and the Cool Springs Chamber voted overwhelmingly in favor of combining to become the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce. More than 95 percent of the 1,000 votes cast were tallied to approve the unification. The Plan of Merger now will be filed as required with state governmental officials. The chamber unification is expected to be finalized by Oct. 1.
“From informal discussions in the community to this final affirmative vote by the members, the unification of the three chambers is the result of hours of thoughtful discussion and detailed work by many members of our committed business community,” said Brad Dunn, who headed the unification transition team and will serve as the new chamber's first chairperson. "Now we can move forward as a united organization to serve all of Williamson County's businesses, as well as this dynamic community as a whole. The future of the unified chamber begins today."
Williamson County Economic Development Director Matt Largen expressed his enthusiasm at the vote by saying, “This is great – 96 percent of those who voted approved the merger. It clearly shows that the membership and the public are more than ready to see this happen.”
Largen said his office is looking forward to a strategic partnership with the unified chamber with an eye toward adopting initiatives that benefit the county and the members. “The initiatives can help community development lay the foundation to bring companies to town and further market this as a great location to live, work and play.”
Approximately 2,000 members currently belong to the three chambers. Those with an active membership in one of the three unifying chambers automatically will become charter members of the new organization. For approval, two-thirds of those voting from each chambers’ membership or a majority of the membership, whichever was less, had to vote in favor of the Plan of Merger. Voting opened on Monday, Aug. 20, and ended at 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31.
“We will be working to bring in new members who may have been reluctant to choose among the three chambers in the past,” Dunn said. “The new organization, with more networking opportunities and expanded programming, will offer businesses and organizations a great value for their membership dues.”
Largen said, “There are two seminal moments in how relevant the unified chamber will be in the community – one is to hire a business director and establish staff and two is to hold a retreat with the board to set a vision of the organization and decide what it is we want to become. It’s not a three into one – the idea is to create an entirely new entity to serve the business community.”
The unification effort has been supported by funding from organizations and businesses through the Founding Members Council. As of Tuesday, Sept. 4, 43 FMC members donating from $1,000 to $25,000 each had signed on. Recruitment for this historic founders' group will continue through Oct. 1. Any business, organization or individual interested in joining should contact Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the FMC is available on the unification transition website, 1W1C.org.
Jackson National Life Insurance, Nissan North America and Vanderbilt University Medical Center have led the FMC at the Chairman's Circle level, with Mars Petcare recently joining as the newest top-tier investor.
“The time is right for a newly formed Williamson County Chamber, and we’re pleased to support this historic move from its very beginning,” said Debra Fair, vice president of corporate affairs, Mars Petcare. “We look forward to future collaboration with our neighbors in Williamson County to help drive our county’s great business climate and incredible quality of life.”
A CEO search team is working to identify and retain an interim general manager who will begin working immediately to integrate staff, coordinate programming, and consolidate operations and office space.
In addition, the team will engage an executive search firm to begin the process of identifying and selecting the permanent chief executive officer/president to lead the chamber into the unified era.
A transition team committee has been working to locate office space for the combined chamber staff and is currently reviewing options that best meet the immediate space needs for the new organization.
More information about staffing, programming and dues, as proposed for the interim management period while a new CEO is recruited, is available on the website, 1W1C.org.
The move toward unifying the three chambers started in 2009 when community leaders began an informal dialogue about bringing the groups together to better serve their members and the businesses and people of Williamson County. A study group with representatives from all three chambers began work in 2011, and the unification was approved by all three chamber boards by August of that year. A Transition Board was appointed to oversee the on-going unification effort, which culminated in the last weeks of August with the members' vote.
Posted on: 9/5/2012