Local chamber of commerce members are calling the idea a valuable one to explore

The firing of Executive Director Hope Howard from the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce last month may be just the tip of the iceberg for changes at the chamber this year.

The executive committees for the Tualatin and Tigard area chambers of commerce are in the very beginning stages of discussing a possible partnership that could result in one regional chamber for the two cities.

'The bottom line is if it's beneficial for our members, then we'll explore it,' said Ralph Hughes, president of the Tigard chamber.

Tualatin Chamber President Bill Phillips informed Tualatin chamber members Monday of the potential partnership via an e-mail.

'It seems to be the wave of the future for smaller communities whose chambers are small and underfunded,' said Cheryl Dorman, president-elect for the Tualatin chamber.

Hughes admitted that it was the Tigard chamber that initially started the talks about the partnership.

'Once I heard Hope (Howard) was gone, I put a call in to Bill Phillips about a partnership,' Hughes said.

Dorman noted that the Tualatin chamber had not even considered discussing a partnership with Tigard prior to Howard's departure.

'(The idea of partnering with Tigard's chamber) did come at an opportune time,' Dorman said.

The idea of combining chambers isn't new, Hughes said. Across the country, chambers are merging in order to be more inclusive of businesses that may need to belong to more than one city's chamber of commerce.

Tigard chamber member Sydney Sherwood, director of the Good Neighbors Center, called the potential partnership 'an excellent idea.'

'As a person who works in Tigard and deals with businesses in Tualatin, I see a lot of overlap,' she said. 'Membership is hard enough to do all by yourself (for one city's chamber). Then there's dues, all paying for the same overhead. It would be wonderful.'

Dorman said that since Monday she has heard nothing but positive comments from Tualatin businesses about the potential partnership.

Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen agreed that the collaboration was definitely worth looking into.

'I can see where that would be valuable and an efficient way to do it,' Dirksen said.

Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden, who also serves on the Tualatin chamber Board of Directors, was a little more cautious about the idea. He called the partnership an 'interesting concept' that deserved to be evaluated and considered.

'Interesting is all I can attach to it at this point,' Ogden said.

He did add that since Tualatin is without an executive director at the moment, it seemed like the right time to 'ask the question' about a regional chamber.

But Ogden also noted that the Tualatin chamber board would need to make a decision one way or another either to hire a new director or pursue a partnership with Tigard.

'We can't just tread water forever,' Ogden said.

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