Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Chambers of Commerce to join forces

It was just announced on Friday that, come January, the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce and Ypsilanti Area Chamber of Commerce would be rolling up into a single entity. I was going to take the opportunity to ask what our local Chamber actually does, other than host fundraisers at local golf courses, fight progressive legislation, and chip in to bring inspirational thought leaders like Glenn Beck to Michigan, but I decided that, in the spirit of the holidays, I’d put aside my reflexive dislike for what has historically been a Republican fundraising entity, and ask instead what kinds of things we – especially those of us doing business along the A2-Ypsi corridor – would like to see from a new, revitalized Chamber which seeks to better join our two communities… Here, for reference, is the announcement from the Ann Arbor Chamber.

The Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Area Chambers of Commerce announced today that the respective Boards of Directors have unanimously approved a resolution to pursue joint operation and form the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber. In addition, Diane Keller, current President of the Ypsilanti Area Chamber of Commerce, will be President of the new organization.

Further details will be available at a special event held on Tuesday, January 12, 7:30am – 9:30 am at Washtenaw Community College’s Morris Lawrence Building. At that event a formal announcement will be made about the joint operation and chamber leadership will discuss the plan for moving forward.

“The joint operation of these organizations represents a significant step towards more regional efforts to meet the needs of our membership base,” commented Karl Couyoumjian, Chair-Elect of the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. “We are also very pleased to welcome Diane with her extensive Chamber background and look forward to her leadership and direction as we work towards serving members of the new organization.”

“Now more than ever we felt it was important to explore collaboration, and I’m pleased to see this effort move forward,” noted Mark Ouimet, current Ypsilanti Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Chair.

A committee of current Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Chamber board members and member representatives was formed in October to explore the joint operation of the two organizations. The committee met numerous times and concluded that collaboration between the two groups is in the interest of their business members and the community and would result in expanded affinity programs and benefits for members; overall cost savings; increased networking opportunities and a stronger voice in public policy.

Diane Keller will become President of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber on January 1, 2010. She has been President of the Ypsilanti Area Chamber of Commerce since June, 2007. A longtime local resident, Keller previously served as Director of Education for the Ypsilanti Chamber and as manager of the Ypsilanti Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

And, for what it’s worth, even though I have an issue with Chambers of Commerce generally, I think this really is a positive step forward, and I wish them all the best in pulling it off. I do think, however, that it’s incumbent upon us to give them direction. I know a lot of good people who own small businesses, who aren’t presently members of the Chamber, and I’m thinking that this might be a good time for them to reengage.

update: I got a letter from someone on the Chamber board today. He seemed happy with the post, but had an issue with my suggestion that our local Chambers had anything to do with Glenn Beck being brought here. As he explained it, our local Chambers, while members of the Michigan Chamber, “do not fund them in any way,” and didn’t have a hand in coordinating the event. The same, he says, is also true of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They’re members, he says, but they’re not active participants.

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  1. Posted December 20, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and speaking of the Chamber of Commerce, here are a few other things I’ve been meaning to link to.

  2. Bonnie
    Posted December 20, 2009 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    The Ypsi Chamber actually funds Ypsi PRIDE day (, through their education fund. I’d really like to see that funding and administrative support kept going into the future.

    The Chamber’s also been a part of Ypsi CoPAC in the past, and I’d like to see that continue, too. They may have a platform I disagree with at the national level, but I do enjoy hearing their viewpoint, and they give voice to businesses and organizations which we may not hear from otherwise.

  3. Posted December 20, 2009 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    I don’t deny that our local Chambers have funded some worthwhile initiatives. I just wonder how relevant they are to today’s entrepreneurs. I know quite a few business owners who have joined, because they thought that it was right thing to do, but then eventually dropped out, when they found that they could get insurance cheaper through other channels, or determined that the networking events weren’t relevant. I know it’s anecdotal, but my sense is that they’re a bit antiquated… But, like I said, I think there might be an opportunity here, as a new entity is being created.

  4. watching laughing
    Posted December 21, 2009 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    I know of a shopper, who came to town; that asked about a particular business in the City Of Ypsilanti as to where it was, while being on the phone with the Chamber.
    This business isn’t a member of the Chamber, and the chamber told the shopper, they had no idea of the business and couldn’t give them any info.
    This business has been in Ypsi for decades.

    Just passing on some info.

    Watching Laughing.

  5. L Thomason
    Posted December 21, 2009 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    I think that groups like Think Local First, which has been written about here in the past, have done a much better job of addressing the needs of locally owned retail businesses.

  6. qwa
    Posted December 22, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Do the chambers have a part of their strategic plans (do they have strategic plans?) that focuses on how to attract, support, and retain locally-owned businesses? Since marketing is one thing they’re doing– i.e. marketing to businesses– I’d think they’d segment their markets, and would be curious if they do so by differentiating a small coffee shop that’s locally owned (Bombadill’s) from a Starbucks, since the marketing & services to attract, support, and retain those places would be vastly different. Can anyone with connection to or experience with the Chamber answer that?

  7. Ale8
    Posted December 22, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    If they’re claiming that they don’t support the Michigan Chamber financially, I don’t believe it.

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