By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Tuesday's PA United meeting was to update the groups and provide feedback on whether they would have a vote of their memberships, said one of the PA United organizers, Jim Haguewood.
Also, the Main Street business and occupations tax program is a voluntary donation by a business on its yearly B&O tax bill to the Port Angeles Main Street program, primarily for projects, Haguewood said.
See updated story at http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20140502/NEWS/305029980/port-angeles-business-groups-to-mull-continuing-merger-talks
PORT ANGELES –– Leaders of the city's three most prominent business organizations will bring to their memberships a plan to merge into one economic development group.
“This is no longer three separate groups. This will be a group,” said Todd Ortloff, president of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce and station manager at KONP radio.
Directors from the boards of the chamber, the Port Angeles Business Association and the Port Angeles Downtown Association met under a working name of PA United for the sixth time Tuesday at the Lincoln Center to present a plan for consolidating functions of the groups.
The plan will be presented to the three organizations for votes later this month.
The group's hope is that combined efforts to promote the area, provide business tax incentives and lobby the local, state and federal governments for pro-business policies will be more effective in expanding the Port Angeles economy.
“If we could get all the things from having an efficient, organized, cooperative group, would we blow up these organizations and be in a better place?” asked Bob Lumens, president of the downtown association and owner of Northwest Fudge and Confections.
“I think the answer is yes.”
It calls for the dissolution of the chamber of commerce and the business association to create a new organization that would divvy up the duties each organization now performs into five “task force” committees that would focus on specific areas of economic development.
Because of its affiliation with the state Main Street program, the Port Angeles Downtown Association needs special consideration, and parts of it at least should remain an independent 501(c)3.
The sixth meeting was to have been the last. But organizers opted to have another meeting May 6 in advance of the votes.
The downtown association will vote on consolidation May 12.
The business association's board of directors will hear a presentation from the PA United team May 12 before a members' vote May 13.
Chamber members will be asked to vote on the merger May 16.
“Who would think in Port Angeles we would be talking about dismembering to reorganize as one group?” asked Andrew May, a member of the business association and an ornamental horticulturist who writes a gardening column for the Peninsula Daily News.
The move to centralize business organizations stems from a longstanding feeling by many that the three groups do not work with each other well to advance economic growth, said Jim Haguewood, the Clallam County economic development director from 2000-05 and now a business consultant. He is PA United's group facilitator.
“There have been discussions over 40 years to do this. Just either the time wasn't right, the economy wasn't right, or the people weren't right,” Haguewood said.
“It's at the point where I think we're all done expecting something different will happen by continuing the same old, same old.”
A name and a budget for the group have not been determined.
“We're not at the point where we're getting into the budget,” Ortloff said.
Planners at Tuesday's meeting said the goal is to have dues match or be reduced from those now paid by businesses to the various organizations.
“If people get more value for their dues, I think that shouldn't be an issue,” Lumens said.
The name is an issue, since the global recognition of a chamber of commerce term is important to potential visitors or relocating businesses, May noted.
“Joe Blow in Nebraska and Texas, when they want to come here, they sit down and Google 'chamber,'” May said. “We have to stay in that search bar.”
Haguewood agreed the recognition of a “chamber” term could be important but said the other groups may not want to be absorbed into the chamber of commerce.
“You can't start the discussion with a predefined thought that everybody will merge into the chamber,” he said.
Other issues involving accounting for public funds and the legal mechanics of merging organizations still remain to be reviewed.
“We haven't even looked at those yet,” Haguewood said.
He said the business association and the chamber could be merged fairly easily, but Lumens noted the downtown association presents a “quirk” in the merger because of its state affiliation.
As part of its Main Street tax incentive, which provides reduced business and operating tax rates, the downtown association has to remain an independent 501(c)(3).
Lumens, though, noted that tax incentive requires attention from paid staffers and may be replaced by increased economic growth.
“If we can create some real, serious economic development because we're all working together, then would the B&O be that big of a thing?” he asked.
The task force areas include downtown development, business and entrepreneurship, organization, government affairs and promotions and marketing.
Each task force would have specific sets of goals. Progress toward those goals — which include increasing tourist traffic, wage levels, population and building among many others — would be reported by the task forces to a central board.
The central board is envisioned as acting as a conduit between the various groups to ensure efforts work with each other without interfering too much with each group's plans.
Paid staff would likely support the central board, but how many employees and how much they are paid have not been determined.
Clallam County Community Development Director Sheila Roark Miller attended Tuesday's meeting and urged the inclusion of business groups from the West End.
Haguewood stressed the immediate goal is to determine whether this central organization is palatable to Port Angeles members, but he was hopeful it would expand to encompass Forks, Clallam Bay-Sekiu and eventually the entire North Olympic Peninsula.
“We're hoping this becomes contagious and spreads beyond just these three business organizations,” Haguewood said.
“I think it's got to start somewhere in this city. And it starts right here.”
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.