The Huntingburg and Ferdinand chambers of commerce are exploring a merger designed to strengthen the southern half of the county.
“Ferdinand and Huntingburg really are the gateways to the county, we each have close access to the interstate,” said Huntingburg Chamber Director Sarah Schroeder. “When you talk about bringing people to the area, they have to come through Huntingburg or Ferdinand if they are coming from the south.”
The merger is still being explored but the idea came to fruition when the two chambers joined together in cohosting business events as well as sending out a single newsletter to the members that highlighted both groups’ activities earlier this year. “We received a lot of positive feedback,” Schroeder said. “We also realized how many people come from Ferdinand to work in Huntingburg or use services like our daycare systems and vice versa, how many people in Huntingburg drive to Ferdinand to work or eat.”
Ferdinand’s Chamber doesn’t have a director, however, volunteers from the board of directors work to inform the public of events and information for Ferdinand businesses.
In addition to strengthening the group through the merger, the new organization plans on reaching out to some of the smaller communities in the southern area to give them a stronger voice in economic development. “We really want to look at all the communities in southern Dubois County that have not been represented at all,” Schroeder explained. “So we will work with Holland, Birdseye and St. Anthony to see what we can to do ensure they are also being represented.”
According to Schroeder, bringing the two chambers together and including the smaller communities will bring a unified voice for the area. This new chamber — a proposed name is the Southern Dubois County Chamber — can then look at strengthening the place-based initiatives already underway in these communities. Those initiatives are designed to attract people to the county to fill the needs of the area’s employers as well as to continue to build stronger community bonds.
Moving forward, the two Chambers will spend the next several months talking and listening to Chamber Members, government officials and community members collecting facts and opinions and weighing all this information carefully before a final decision is made. A concern moving forward is maintaining each member community’s unique voice and interests. To help with that, the new chamber would include representatives from all the member communities.
Schroeder reiterated that the goal of the chamber would be to strengthen each individual community.
If they decided to move forward with the merger, Schroeder said it would likely occur before the annual membership drive in 2019.