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Forest Grove, Cornelius chambers merge


East-west agreement should bring new members, dues to business nonprofit

It’s official: The Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce, that is.

Forest Grove Chamber board members voted March 25 to change the name and include their neighbors to the east after Cornelius City Manager Rob Drake made a case for combining the two cities into one chamber.

"Merging makes them bigger," Drake said, which will help balance out heavyweights such as Hillsboro and Tigard on Washington County's east side.

With Cornelius and Forest Grove combined, the new chamber will now represent a larger population base than Tualatin.

Cornelius businesses would benefit from increased opportunities for training and information, as well as from representation on regional political and community organizations, said Drake, who tried various ways to resurrect the Cornelius chamber after it fell apart in 2010.

Forest Grove would benefit from the increased revenue new dues-paying members would bring in, said Drake, who estimates there were about 50 active members when the Cornelius chamber folded — and as many as 50 more now who might want to join the new group.

Chamber Vice President Mike Hundley said he immediately put Drake on the membership committee.

“We’re ready to begin the process as quickly as possible to have a membership drive to bring in those good community businesses from Cornelius,” Hundley said.

Several have already joined. Clint Vandehey, whose carpet and upholstery store sits on the corner of Baseline Street and 12th Avenue in Cornelius, contacted the Forest Grove chamber as soon as he heard of the expansion.

“I’m still waiting for Mr. (interim chamber director Ray) Giansante to drop the paperwork off,” said Vandehey, who had never joined the Cornelius chamber.

He said he looks forward to “networking, meeting new friends.”

One key person Hundley hopes to add as soon as May 1 is a new executive director.

The chamber just began advertising the position, which was abruptly vacated by Teri Koerner last November after board members discovered she had failed to keep up with the chamber’s bills, including its tax bills.

Eight people had applied even before the advertisement went out, Hundley said.

Giansante would like to see the chamber hire one or two more staff members to make sure the new director has time to attend regional meetings and visit local members. To do that, the chamber will probably need more money than new Cornelius members alone will bring in.

Hundley said the chamber is in the early phase of considering a dues increase but would not be raising the amount before the Cornelius membership drive.

“I think it would be better if we captured them before we raised the dues,” he said.