Dialogue to create new Clintonville business group launched

JIM FISCHER
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ThisWeek group

Members of the Clintonville business community have begun investigating what the next steps might be in the wake of the shuttering of the Clintonville Area Chamber of Commerce two months ago.

They include local resident Dan Sensenbrenner, a member and one-time board member of the former chamber.

"I've only just started the process, reaching out to a few people, asking about the kinds of challenges there are, what people have an interest in and what are their needs," said Dan Sensenbrenner, a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker and a one-time board member of the former chamber.

"I don't have any solutions. I just have the time and energy."

Sensenbrenner said he has started making phone calls to area business leaders and asking questions to try to get a dialogue started.

The chamber ceased operations after 25 years. The board voted on the decision at its June meeting and announced the decision to members in a July 21 email -- because of financial difficulties, according to chamber board secretary Nicholas Curtis.

"The board voted to cease chamber operations. The board has not disbanded or dissolved the chamber," Curtis, speaking on behalf of the board, said in July. "However, we wanted to leave the door open for the chamber's work to continue -- should another group, entity or individual desire to take over."

"This is not about looking back or finding fault or saying anyone did anything wrong," Sensenbrenner said. "This is about seeing what might come next."

He said those interested in the effort should call or text him at 614-561-3944.

Clintonville Area Commission member Jim Garrison said he had reached out to chamber leadership and believes there is no concern about giving way to new leadership in the business community.

"Logistically, there don't seem to be any hurdles. It's just a matter of finding someone to take the reins," Garrison said.

Sensenbrenner said he is not interested in running a new chamber or whatever organization -- if any -- might be developed from the discussions he has initiated.

"Maybe it's not even called a chamber. I don't think we want a reboot, although I think it would be wonderful to have all the events (the chamber sponsored) back," Sensenbrenner said.

"The real goal is to find something that helps people, something that offers a tangible result for their investment."

He said the conversations would not be strictly about forming a new chamber but rather assessing the need within the business community and building an organization to meet those needs.

Garrison said he is committed to working to find a solution or a new plan for the neighborhood's businesses.

"The CAC can't replace the chamber or lead a new organization, but it's not outside the commission's purview to encourage that entity to exist, to foster it and advocate for it and to serve as a resource in the process," he said.

Sensenbrenner also mentioned the challenges of operating a business "in a COVID world."

"Everyone is just trying to keep up," he said. "It's not easy to be having these discussions now. But this is something that would need to be built for the long haul."

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