Vermillion Chamber, VDC, agree to merge Forming a stronger organization is goal of the new partnersh

Vermillion Chamber, VDC, agree to merge Forming a stronger organization is goal of the new partnership Local businesses, industries and individuals involved with the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and the Vermillion Area Development Company (VDC) have agreed to merge the two organizations.

This new partnership will appropriately be known as the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Company.

The goal of blending the Vermillion Chamber and the VDC into one organization has been talked about for months. The idea received overwhelming support from the membership of both the Chamber and the VDC.

"Usually organizational change is provoked by some major outside driving force. In Vermillion, we were fortunate to transition from two organizations into one because the leadership of the chamber and development company recognized the opportunity to create a stronger, more stable and more proactive single-leadership group for the community," Mayor Roger Kozak said.

"Over the years, many efforts have been made by both organizations to promote and to strengthen Vermillion's business community, as well as our community as a whole, said Lisa Ketchum, acting executive director of the VDC. "In some ways, each organization has had their own unique mission and areas of focus, and in other ways, many similarities and synergies between the two have continually emerged," she said.

In 2002, the Vermillion Chamber and the VDC introduced a new concept of working together on a combined funding request from the city and a combined membership investment campaign.

These actions received a positive response from the city, the membership of the Vermillion Chamber and VDC, and by the community.

The idea eventually resulted in the first formal steps taken by the two organizations to consolidate and to streamline their resources.

The success of this cooperative effort helped the Vermillion community realize the benefits that occur when the two organizations join together to achieve the same goals.

The idea of a more formal partnership and possible merger between the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and the Vermillion Area Development Company has been continually discussed over the past several months.

"I believe that the merger will help energize and facilitate continued business development in Vermillion. The

new organizational structure demonstrates a cooperative spirit and emphasis on quality of life that is attractive to companies and visitors alike," said John Paulson, president of the VDC's board of directors. "There will be great interest in what Vermillion is doing in the future, and the community has a lot to offer through the combined resources and expertise of existing businesses, USD, city and county government, the number one school system, and excellent health care providers."

An informational meeting was held Tuesday, Nov. 12 with the membership of the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and the Vermillion Area Development Company.

Information about the proposed merger plan, including proposed articles of merger and proposed bylaws, was presented, followed by elaborate discussion about the past and the future of the organizations. There was support shown for moving forward with merging the two organizations. After the informational meeting, special meetings of the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce board and the Vermillion Area Development Company board were held.

At these meetings, resolutions were adopted by both boards to proceed with plans to merge, including a special vote of the membership.

The members of the Vermillion Chamber and the VDC were asked to cast their votes regarding the proposed merger by Nov. 25. The ballots received represented a majority of the membership.

The tally of the votes indicate 90 percent in favor of officially merging the Vermillion Chamber and the VDC into a combined organization.

"By combining the resources and the talents of the two boards, the city of Vermillion will have an extremely effective means to address the concerns and challenges associated with the full range of business recruitment and business expansion opportunities that are present today," Kozak said. "I believe the change will be very successful because a plan is in place to translate the vision into realistic activities and a plan is in place to manage the change."

The merger committee, made up of representatives from the boards of the Vermillion Chamber and the VDC, met Dec. 4 to discuss actions needed to begin transitioning the organizations. One action taken during the meeting was to move forward with filing new articles of merger with the office of the South Dakota Secretary of State.

It is expected that a certificate and a signed copy of the official articles of merger will be returned from the state within the next few weeks.

In addition, a joint board meeting was scheduled for Dec 18, at which time committees will be formed to begin work in the areas of budgeting and finance, nominating, and executive director search.

"Input from our membership and its enthusiastic support for the merger was greatly appreciated," said Gene Lunn, vice president of the VDC's board of directors. "I believe the result of the merger will be a stronger organization that can better focus its resources and efforts on the promotion of the Vermillion trade area."

"The results of the vote are a very strong endorsement of the action taken by the two boards," said Dave Lorenz, vice president of the Vermillion Chamber. "I'm very confident that the new organization will be more efficient and will provide excellent service to all constituencies."

Paul Roberts of Clay Union Electric, a member of both the Vermillion Chamber and the VDC, thinks the decision to merge is a good idea.

"It is perfect timing to bring the two organizations back together again. I think this will be a great opportunity to unify both the industrial side of things in Vermillion as well as the retail aspect of things," he said. "This is a positive move and it's exciting to bring the two organizations together and coordinate the future of Vermillion."

Debbie Peterson, the owner of Deb's Hallmark, a downtown retail business in Vermillion, also favors the move.

"I think it's a smart decision to join the two organizations to have one solid uniform group," said Peterson, who is a member of both the Chamber and the VDC. "The goal for both organizations has always been the same 'Vermillion.'

"With the organizations joining forces it should make the community have a solid foundation in both the economic development and retail segments in the community, and hopefully it will help the community grow and prosper," she said.

The Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce was originally incorporated on April 17, 1929, with the scope and purpose of "promoting agricultural, civic, commercial, industrial and general interests of the Vermillion area, the State of South Dakota and the United States of America."

The Vermillion Area Development Company was originally incorporated on March 20, 1967, with the scope and purpose of "initiating, conducting and endorsing those industrial and public endeavors which strengthen the economy of the Vermillion area."

The Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Company is planning its annual banquet, scheduled for Friday, Jan. 10, 2003, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Coyote Student Center.

"It will be a great time to celebrate 'Vermillion ? The Place to Be,' and to kick off the new year as a combined organization positioned well for the future progress and growth for this community," said Ketchum.

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