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Joint Chamber merger discussions to continue

Kathy Lewin, chairperson of the board of directors for the West Fargo Area Chamber of Commerce, said she feels good about the direction the opening round of talks regarding a possible merger with the Fargo Moorhead Chamber of Commerce are taking. "Whatever direction we are going to go will be for the best of everyone and the community of West Fargo and I feel really good about that."

Board members of the two groups met a week ago for talks that involved working through such concerns as: retaining the West Fargo office, along with staff; cost of membership, representation of West Fargo board members on a merged board, naming of the chamber, fate of the ambassadors, and the continuation of popular, longtime West Fargo events - West Fest, the Big Event, and Taste of West Fargo.

Lewin emphasized that the meeting was both preliminary and general in nature with some specific areas tackled during the discussion. "All in all, everybody was very open to everything we had to say and all the discussion was extremely positive."

She said one of the biggest concerns, and an item that will be addressed in a future meeting of the two factions, will be membership costs. Lewin said the groups will look at both dual and single memberships and see where the cross factor will be.

She said the plan involves setting up the next meeting possibly as early as next week. "I think everybody has a very positive feeling regarding further talks. Everyone in attendance at the meeting was of the general consensus that we need to continue our discussion and bring it to our membership as quickly as we can. If everyone ultimately decides and agrees that the merger is the best route to go, then we want to get it done quickly, but in doing so we have to make sure to slow it down enough to be able to look at the whole picture so any action addresses what our West Fargo chamber members need and want."

She said that once the two groups are able to sit down and review membership structure and financial areas and some of the other items are addressed, possibly on a one-by-one basis overseen by individual committees, there will be a forum scheduled with representation from both chambers to field questions and provide answers.

Lewin said this process will provide the opportunity for the West Fargo membership "to come to the table and have their concerns answered," repeating the statement she has been reinforcing since the idea for talks began, "keep in mind, we are the sounding board for the chamber and it is our membership that will be making up the final decision."

In the meantime, while talks continue, it will be business as usual for the West Fargo Area Chamber of Commerce. Business After Hours will take place Thursday, April 29, at Legend's Event Center (former Speedway) in West Fargo; the annual Breakfast Meeting and Awards Session will be held on Thursday, May 13, at the Hilton Garden Inn; and the annual Golf Tournament is set for Wednesday, June 16, at the Maple River Golf Course, Mapleton.

Lewin lauded the effort and commitment of the West Fargo Chamber staff, working in the absence of an executive director, a position presently on hold to fill. "We have a wonderful staff who is continuing to carry on in the day-to-day routine of things."

Lewin said the West Fargo Chamber presently has about 425 members. The Fargo Moorhead Chamber has over 1,800 members.

Craig Whitney, President and CEO of the Fargo Moorhead Chamber, said he thought the meeting was "very productive. We are now to the next step of revealing some of the details from a business standpoint. We look forward to the next meeting and further talks regarding the merger."