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Chambers, businesses take regional view

Rash of Tualatin Chamber events actually held in Wilsonville.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Zoup! franchisee Brian Carney works with his staff as they prepare for the grand opening of their restaurant last June in Wilsonville. The Carneys, who also have a family business in Tualatin Auto Parts, are members of multiple local chambers of commerce.The Tualatin Chamber of Commerce is holding its weekly networking meeting this Friday, but it won't be held within city limits.

For the second week in a row, the chamber is planning to hold its morning get-together in Wilsonville. Last week, the group met at Slick's Big Time BBQ in Wilsonville for a ribbon-cutting with chamber representatives.

The Tualatin Chamber is also sponsoring an art exhibition next month, but once again, it is happening in Wilsonville, at Findlay Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram.

So why is the chamber holding so many events outside Tualatin city limits?

“It's nothing sneaky," said Linda Moholt, chief executive officer of the Tualatin Chamber. "We're not trying to take over their town.”

Moholt said that the chamber's recent plans fit with a trend among its members.

“It's becoming more and more common as companies expand and have multiple locations,” she said.

In fact, Moholt said, the local chambers of commerce enjoy a close working relationship and considerable overlap in their membership. The Tualatin Chamber has been participating for years in a multi-chamber event every December, typically held at the Wilsonville Costco, with chambers from as far away as Canby and Woodburn also in attendance. The Washington County chambers meet monthly, Moholt noted, to share information and collaborate on initiatives.

“I would say our group plays very nicely together,” she said.

In an example of the interplay between the chambers, Kevin Ferrasci O'Malley was hired last year as the Wilsonville Area Chamber of Commerce's new executive director, but before that, he sat on the Tualatin Chamber's board of directors.

“What's interesting is people perceive sometimes that the chambers are in competition,” said Ferrasci O'Malley. “That's the furthest thing from the truth.”

He explained, “If every local chamber is growing and healthy and doing good work in the community, then that's a benefit for the adjoining chambers as well as the folks in their own town.”

As Moholt described it, “many, many, many” members of the Tualatin Chamber are also members of at least one other chamber.

“Ninety percent of the people that work (in Tualatin) don't live here,” Moholt said, using an oft-quoted figure — an analysis using the U.S. Census Bureau's OnTheMap website actually puts the number at 93.4 percent, as of 2014. “So it's really caused people to shop in a much bigger area, to do business in a much bigger area, to expand their networks to a much bigger area.”

Alex Carney, co-owner of Tualatin Auto Body, said her business has membership in six chambers, including the Tualatin, Wilsonville and Tigard chambers.

“I felt early on that if I was being supported by the communities, (if) they would drive out here to have me take care of their cars, then I wanted to support their chambers,” Carney said.

Being a member of multiple chambers helps Carney and her employees share their business across a broad swath of Portland's southwestern suburbs by word-of-mouth, she explained. She described each chamber as an “automatic resource” for people who do business in that community.

When Carney's family business branched out from automotive work to restaurants and catering, the Tualatin Chamber remained one of its resources, even though their new Zoup! franchise location is at Argyle Square in Wilsonville.

“When they do catering, they do it for the whole region. They don't just do it for Wilsonville,” Moholt remarked.

Ferrasci O'Malley said when businesses in Tualatin or other communities reach out to the Wilsonville Area Chamber about becoming members, the chamber will serve them, but he encourages them to join the Tualatin Chamber as well.

“Ultimately, it's the members' choice as to where they join, but it's not normal to see somebody join another chamber and not join their local chamber,” he said.

Unlike some of its neighboring chambers, including the chambers in Wilsonville and Beaverton, the Tualatin Chamber does not include the word “Area” in its official name, despite the regional view it is taking.

“Some have chosen to use that word, 'Area,'” Moholt acknowledged. While it might be appropriate for the Tualatin Chamber as well, she said, “It's just not something that we've really discussed.”

By Mark Miller
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