Agencies explore organizational merger in Lewis County

LOWVILLE— The main economic development agency, the Lewis County Industrial Development Authority, and the main membership and tourism promotion agency, the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, are taking the idea of ​​”partnership” to the next level and exploring the feasibility of an organizational merger that would consolidate services, resources and personnel under a single umbrella organization.

The potential new organization, called Of course Lewis, would be a 501(c)3 nonprofit, leading economic, business and tourism development efforts for Lewis County, according to an announcement Friday.

“It is good to recognize that while each organization has a long history of service in Lewis County, their current structures also have fundamental limitations. A more formal collaboration offers the opportunity to enhance the impact of their respective strengths in the growth of our community,” said Joe Lawrence, Chairman of the Lewis County IDA Board of Directors.

“Merging these two entities is a natural fit,” said Nick Mir, president of the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber and Naturally Lewis have been working together on collaborative projects for years now. Many of the services they offer complement and even overlap. Bringing all of these services together under one umbrella will help streamline these processes, capitalize on resources, and create better opportunities for Lewis County businesses.

The board of directors of the Lewis County IDA, the Lewis County Development Corporation (LCDC) and the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce have been discussing the possibility of a merger for six months, and since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, further partnerships, collaborations and strategic planning among the three entities have reinforced the need for a more streamlined approach to economic, business and tourism development in Lewis County, the announcement added.

The proposed new organization Naturally Lewissupported by a network of members, would provide business and organizational support services, ultimately leading to improved communities, an expanded tax base and a better quality of life for all, officials said.

Under a new board, the organization would retain all employees of the Lewis County IDA and the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, and as part of the transition, the organization would acquire all strategic priorities current and future economic development.

These objectives include business development and support services, property and site redevelopment projects, tourism development and promotion initiatives, place-making and community-building initiatives, marketing and promoting Lewis County as a great place to live, work, do business and play, member services and events and working with communities, which are already led by the Lewis County IDA, LCDC and the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce.

The merger would also allow the consolidation and streamlining of personnel, finance and budgets, programming, marketing and communications, fundraising, human resources, technology and facilities into a single organization. added officials.

Lewis County Development Corporation President Tim Petersen said, “The [potential] merging organizations provides an efficient way to leverage the unique capabilities of each organization into a single entity, which would otherwise not be possible if the organizations continued to operate independently. This amalgamation only strengthens the capacity for growth of Lewis County’s economy.

IDA Lewis County Executive Director Brittany Davis said, “Our continued collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce has led to great opportunities for our business community. A merger of economic development organizations and the Chamber would streamline, consolidate resources, clarify staff roles, eliminate any duplication of effort and provide Lewis County communities with even greater opportunities for the future.

Lewis County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kristen Aucter said, “As we reviewed our two agencies, from very high-level strategy to day-to-day tasks, we identified many potential opportunities for a more unified structure and effective in helping to serve our local. businesses and communities.

The potential partnership would create an organization that offers more services to our businesses and organizations than ever before. During strategic planning meetings, the three entities saw that a combined organization would bring clarity about who we are and what we do in our communities, providing opportunities to refocus efforts, consolidate resources, support businesses and communities more effectively, to showcase our strengths and to create an even better place for people to live, work, build business and play.

While the partnership is still in the feasibility and research phase, staff and board members from all three organizations are seeking input from current Lewis County Chamber of Commerce members, local businesses, members of the community, residents and tourists.

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