Sponsored by:

Chamber merger official, path forward now begins

  • ">

    The "Peterborough" sign in front of the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce building. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/16/2021 5:15:29 PM

The Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce’s merger is official now that the necessary paperwork is filed with the state, creating a new entity, the Greater Keene & Peterborough Chamber.

The “doing business as” paperwork was filed with the state at the end of 2020, said Phil Suter, President/CEO of the Greater Keene & Peterborough Chamber, who filled the same role for the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce.

“From a technical matter, the Peterborough Chamber does not exist anymore,” Suter said. He said two members of the Peterborough Chamber board, Patty Blake and Karen Hatcher, joined members of the Greater Keene board to provide a more regional look.

“The more local experience and knowledge we have, the better,” Suter said.

“I think the joining together of the two organizations can only be a benefit to the Peterborough area businesses,” Hatcher said. “There are so many more pluses than minuses. If we’re going to be economically strong as a town, we always need to be thinking that we’re part of a greater region.”

Hatcher said there needs to be collaboration and leveraging of existing relationships to benefit all involved.

“There are so many ways to benefit the greater good,” she said.

Now the real work begins. The organization has two offices, two databases and two websites, so how to blend it all together is part of the conversation moving forward.

“Can there be a benefit to doing some consolidations?” Suter said. “We’re still sort of feeling our way through this. It’s going to take a few months to put together some of the pieces.”

Both had their own events, and does it make sense to have two different golf tournaments, two galas? “Maybe yes, maybe no,” Suter said.

The Peterborough office is currently closed and Suter is unsure of what the future holds for it.

“Is that the best place for a chamber of commerce to be located?” Suter said, adding that the intention is to have a presence in Peterborough, whether it be in the existing building at the corner of Route 101 and Route 202 or more in the downtown area.

Suter said an important takeaway is that this was done in a way to help the region and not just make it geared toward the Keene area.

“We don’t want this to be something where the people in Peterborough are thinking it’s all Keene centric,” Suter said. “We want to look at it as a region. This is a recognition that when you think and act regionally, there’s some value to it.”

Combining forces brings along more marketing power to the region.

“If anything, it’s designed to amplify and project that regional thinking even further,” Suter said. “With all the things that chambers do, this should give us more stability region wide and better sustainability.”

Jamie Trowbridge, President of Yankee Publishing, has been on the Greater Keene Chamber board for three years after Yankee became a member two years prior.

“A bunch of us started on a volunteer basis, looking at how we could market and brand the region,” Trowbridge said.

Yankee had been a longtime member of the Greater Peterborough Chamber and saw there was a way for the region to do things more collectively in terms of marketing.

“Maybe I could help bridge that gap,” Trowbridge said. “Let’s erase the barriers that are artificial and frankly ridiculous. There’s a real value to marketing the region as a whole.”

Trowbridge said the merger is a good next step in terms of what they’ve been trying to accomplish.

“We’re stronger as a bigger organization and use less resources administering what we do,” Trowbridge said. “And what we’ve been trying to stress all along is this is a merger of equals. This is a win for everybody in the region. It helps the residents, the members and the businesses who are not members.”

The conversation about a possible merger began about a year ago after a vote by each chamber’s board to continue with exploratory discussions.

“We said why don’t we talk about how we can do chamber business more regionally,” Suter said. “And about what that would look like.”

The COVID-19 pandemic made having discussions more difficult  “but we never really lost the thread of that conversation,” Suter said.

But the coronavirus also made some of the issues that had been festering beneath the surface more apparent.

“Both of us are in a position where we depend on our programming, for in-person events and gathering,” Suter said. “We’re just another small business so to speak. We were taking a hit and the Peterborough Chamber was maybe feeling the financial pinch a little bit more. Every small nonprofit has challenges to remain viable.”

Hatcher, who serves as the Community and Economic Development Coordinator for the Town of Peterborough, had seen first hand the struggles that were happening from an outside perspective and then as a board member beginning early last year.

“The last few years have been difficult for the Peterborough Chamber and it’s ability to serves its membership was challenging,” Hatcher said. “They had tried to keep it going on volunteer help, but they were struggling.”

And being on the new board could allow her to be more involved with figuring out the next steps.

“I saw that I could play a role in helping move that forward,” Hatcher said. “To really help keep the Peterborough voice strong in the new organization.”

There has been a trend in recent years of Granite State chambers merging to form a stronger entity with Suter pointing to the decision to consolidate the Lebanon and Hanover chambers, as well as Souhegan and Merrimack and the creation of an alliance on the Seacoast. So the merger of the Greater Keene and Greater Peterborough chambers is nothing unique or unusual, just more so for the area.

“That instinct to be more regional is not always thought of,” Suter said.

But Hatcher said it’s imperative.

“Little chambers can’t survive on the old model,” she said.

Suter, who lives in Peterborough, said the sharing of ideas, best practices and talks of collaboration has been going on for years, even sharing events.

“It’s just sort of second nature for us,” he said.

Suter said there were about 400 to 500 members associated with the Keene Chamber and another 200 to 300 in Peterborough. But there was some overlap with businesses and organizations belonging to both.

“It’s safe to assume there will be 600 members when it’s all consolidated,” Suter said.

But the path forward is just beginning to take shape. Hatcher said it may take the whole year to answer all the questions members have.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” Trowbridge said. “There are challenges that come with serving a bigger region too.”




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

20 Grove St.
Peterborough, NH 03458
603-924-7172

 

© 2021 Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy