City leaders are working to merge two local organizations — the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce and Shawnee Economic Development Foundation (SEDF) — in hopes of maximizing staff efforts by cutting out superfluity, due to similar goals. Tim Burg, SEDF director, confirmed the plan mid-January.

City leaders are working to merge two local organizations — the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce and Shawnee Economic Development Foundation (SEDF) — in hopes of maximizing staff efforts by cutting out superfluity, due to similar goals. Tim Burg, SEDF director, confirmed the plan mid-January.

Mayor Richard Finley said it all started more than a year ago when then-Chamber President Nancy Keith — now retired — and several members of the Board of Directors of the Chamber began considering how to keep the Chamber relevant in the future.

He said the group discussed it as Chamber 2025 informally.

“As those discussions continued, we naturally regressed to a conversation about our purpose, mission, goals and organizational structure, as well as an honest assessment of our relevance today,” he said. “As we dreamed about what organization would function best, we gravitated to a discussion of what kind of organization would best serve the community on a more comprehensive basis.”

He said all members of the discussion group independently concluded that one organization which dealt with the current overlap in community goals and allocation of resources would function best.

“From that point, we made overtures to the SEDF executive committee for conversation,” Finley said. “We formed what has become known as the Group of Ten, which included participants from both perspectives,” he said. “Once again, all concluded that one organization would be preferable.”

The how-to followed from those discussions and progressed to the point at which the executive committees of both endorsed the idea for a second date, he said.

Finley said the executive members were added to the group — to the extent they were not already included; work continued to the point of making a presentation to the respective boards and receiving the endorsement to begin efforts to develop a memorandum of understanding — generally the first formal step in any potential combination.

In December the SEDF board of directors approved the SEDF's executive committee to begin the process of sorting out what that type of an arrangement might be, Burg said.

On Wednesday, Finley shared an update of the merger's progress.

“We (the Chamber and SEDF) are continuing to meet and work on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU),” he said. “We've checked off a number of key points in that regard.”

He said the meetings have been very productive.

“We divided the executive committees into three subcommittees — one of which, led by Mike Adcock, is working on the MOU,” Finley said.

Finley said the committee has made several drafts and anticipates having something available at the next meeting in a form that can be recommended for consideration of adoption.

Right now, another subcommittee is working to build a sustainable business plan from a financial perspective, he said.

“It is our hope that having one organization will create efficiencies of both scope and scale,” he said, “given that the overall objectives of both organizations are so closely aligned and both are thinly staffed.”

It would allow the efficient allocation of resources, as well as maximizing the inputs of the business community — which volunteers in both organizations. “It just makes sense,” Finley said.

Watch for updates.

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.