By Gus Pearcy and Beth Taylor
By now, everyone knows that the Carmel and Fishers chambers of commerce are merging into a new entity called OneZone. The final vote of the membership was announced Feb. 20.
The new organization doubles the membership, the networking benefits and the strength of the advocacy on behalf of members. OneZone will be the third largest chamber in the state, presumably giving it a larger voice on behalf of the members. Yet membership costs will remain the same, saving the few who had dual memberships, former president and CEO of the Fishers chamber, Dan Canan said.
“When we actually looked at it, we shared about 100 members,” Canan said. “It showed us that members were really making a conscious decision of one (chamber) over the other.”
OneZone will soon move into a combined office space. All staff members will keep their jobs.
Most activities will be combined, however a few, like the golf outings each chamber held, will stay. Canan implied that some activities may go under the name OneZone Fishers or OneZone Carmel.
The boards will combine for now. Dan LaReau, St.Vincent Carmel Hospital executive director of operations and information, will serve as OneZone’s inaugural board chair. He said the negotiations took about 20 months and were closely held to only members of boards and a few major corporate sponsors.
“This was evaluated and the diligence was done at the board level,” LaReau said. “The board, speaking for membership, agreed it was a good idea.”
Many members were unaware of the plan until it was announced, leading to some criticism of the process. Members were given less than two weeks to evaluate the proposal before a vote.
Mo Merhoff, Carmel Chamber president, will serve as OneZone president. She says the secrecy was necessary, explaining it like a corporate merger.
“I don’t know how 750 people could be on a committee to design an elephant,” she said. “We have business members who are successfully managing their businesses. Our job as chamber professionals is to do the research and figure out the best benefits that can be created on their behalf. Their representatives, who are the board members, are the people with who we engage.”
Merhoff said both chambers are nonprofits that do not receive money from either city.
Joe Peterson, owner of Crown Technology and Peterson’s Restaurant and a Fishers chamber member, said he hopes that the Fishers Chamber stays focused on Fishers.
“It really depends on how they get influenced by Carmel,” Peterson said. “I like the small town image and cooperation that we get from the Fishers Chamber. However, time will tell if there are any problems.”