August 13, 2008: Why, why now for C of C change?


Editor’s note: The following letter was written to the Greater Margaretville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and members. The author asked that it be printed here as a letter to the editor.

Dear Greater Margaretville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and members:
Thank you for the information in the recent broadcast e-mail notifying the membership about the pending name change for our local chamber of commerce. We will be away the week of the meeting and will not be able to attend but we are registering three NO votes for the Membership Ballot (Molnar Financial Group, Inc., Margaretville Lodging LLC and Margaretville Mountain Inn B&B).
In our absence for the upcoming meeting I would like to share a couple of points on this important decision by our chamber leadership in advance of the scheduled August 11 meeting.
 The first point is procedural. The letter accompanying the ballot informs us that the board has voted unanimously to change the chamber name to the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce and the ballot cites members’ right to vote on this decision by the board but neither identifies clearly the process and procedure of the vote and results. According to our current chamber bylaws this next meeting cannot be used to effect any bylaw changes, including the chamber name change. There can only be discussion of any proposed alterations or amendments. Voting on these proposals cannot take place until the next regularly scheduled meeting following the discussion of the proposed amendments or alterations.
Also, in order to amend or alter the bylaws it must be approved by a majority of the chamber members. I have heard it stated that the requirement is for only a majority of the members present at the meeting and not a majority of the entire membership. This is not correct and is supported by the fact that votes are being accepted via e-mail and fax for the current name change proposal. Following is Article X from our chamber bylaws as found on the website:

Section 1 – Revisions
These bylaws may be amended or altered by a majority vote of the members at any regular or special meeting, providing the notice for the meeting includes the proposals for amendments. Any proposed amendments or alterations shall be submitted to the members in writing, at least ten (10) days in advance of the meeting at which they are to be discussed. Voting to adopt the proposed amendments of alterations shall take place at the next regularly scheduled meeting following the discussion of such amendments or alterations.”
 The next points refer to the basis on which the members of our board of directors have made their decision to change the chamber’s name. The letter of notification cites that “this decision is a result of more than one year of discussions with many businesses in our service area, both members and potential members.”
Is there documentation of these discussions or are we basing a complete overhaul of our chamber on hearsay?
Does this documentation take into account the chamber’s member survey from 2006 where the majority of members voted against a name change?
What is the projected budget amount required to cover all the logistical costs associated with a business name change and how is it to be funded?
What are the specific benefits to be gained by the current chamber membership from this name change?
Has there been a documented feasibility study prepared identifying the costs versus benefits of this business name change for the chamber? And, if there is such a study, has it been made available to the chamber membership?
Does “working together as a region, helping each other and growing together” truly require a name change to be successful?
Are we running the risk of duplicating efforts of organizations such as the MARK Group and the Delaware County Chamber and competing for the same funding opportunities by broadening our local chamber focus?
As a final point, some historical perspective. In 1996 the Margaretville Chamber went through an identical exercise to institute a name change in an effort to increase its membership base from surrounding communities. These businesses claimed they would gladly join if the chamber broadened their scope. To accommodate these businesses and their promise to join, Margaretville Chamber became The Greater Margaretville Chamber of Commerce. The result was that only a couple of new businesses joined and only for a year or two. The negative fallout to the chamber after this name change was most visibly represented by the group of Margaretville businesses that opposed the name change and not only left the chamber but formed their own local merchant’s association (Village of Margaretville Merchants Association – VMMA). This splinter organization only lasted for two years but created enough division within the chamber and community that it took the chamber a couple of more years’ work to repair. As part of this repair effort the GMCC made marketing Margaretville as its focal point in an effort to support the largest economic center of the area. The successful marketing and attraction developed by chambers such as Woodstock and Cooperstown were the models used for the Margaretville marketing campaigns for almost a decade now. The hospital, A&P, CVS, multiple village shops and restaurants were all pillars of this revitalization campaign.
The GMCC joined efforts with the Catskill Center for Conservation & Development, Catskill Watershed Corp- oration, MARK Project and Village of Margaretville to help earn for Margaretville the prestigious Quality Com-munity Award directly from Governor Pataki’s office. Margaretville was the first rural community in NY State to receive the Governor’s Quality Community Award. Though Margaretville was the focus of this revitalization campaign it was accomplished through various local and regional entities working together. No name change was required.
Moving to a broader focus, when current members find themselves asking the same old question; “What does the chamber do for me as a member and for the dues paid?” is not a way for the chamber to validate their dues and raison d’être. Our chamber does a great deal for us as its members and it is exactly this focus that makes it great and viable. I know of no other local chamber in the county, except for the Delaware County Chamber, that is strong enough in member commitment to support its own paid executive director. This speaks volumes about our current organization and contributes to our “sense of place.”
Though the Central Catskills Chamber carries a broader vision it simultaneously would dilute the highly visible presence communities like Roxbury and Margaretville have earned for themselves over the last few years. Central Catskills Chamber will require a new marketing and promotional campaign that will have to educate those from out of the area as to its geographic area of coverage and business focus. Starting anew is never easy and may be worthwhile if there are identifiable and measurable results that can be achieved.
At any rate, it would be important for all members to understand clearly from our leadership, why the change and why now?
Peter Molnar,