Clintonville Chamber of Commerce calls it quits

JIM FISCHER
editorial@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

The Clintonville Area Chamber of Commerce has ceased operations after 25 years.

The chamber's board of directors made the decision at its June meeting and notified members via email on July 21, board secretary Nicholas Curtis said.

Curtis, speaking on behalf of the board, said the decision was not made in haste.

"Some of the board's responsibilities are to ensure that the chamber is financially solvent, that its presence in the community is relevant and that membership is beneficial to its members," Curtis said.

"These topics have been under continual review for as long as I have served on the chamber board."

He said the future of the chamber became a "more serious discussion" in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy.

Curtis said dues collection from members became problematic and the inability to hold fundraising events created serious revenue issues.

"The chamber was left with insufficient resources to continue operation," he said.

"We didn't know until we got the email," said Julie Schatz of J.R. Scott Insurance, 3620 N. High St. in Clintonville.

"We're obviously sad to see it go. I did start to wonder, with (COVID-19) causing so much uncertainty and being bad for so many businesses, how things were going, but I didn't expect this."

Schatz said her company had been a member of the chamber long before she started in 2011.

"It's been a big part of our community involvement. It's definitely a loss to the community," Schatz said.

The decision, Curtis said, does not necessarily spell the end for the chamber.

"The board voted to cease chamber operations. The board has not disbanded or dissolved the chamber," he said.

"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.

"The board oversees the chamber's operations and viability, but the institution itself is bigger than the board or any individual member."

Curtis acknowledged many chamber events that serve as fundraisers for the organization also are significant community events.

"The board recognizes that ceasing operations does, in-turn, lead to the end of the Clintonville chamber and its events as the community has known them for 25 years," he said.

"The chamber does 'own' some events that feel more like a community institution than a fundraiser.

"The Slice of Clintonville, Cruise the 'Ville car show and Celebrate Clintonville Awards dinner are examples. Unfortunately, as the chamber goes, so go these events."

Clintonville Area Commission member Jim Garrison echoed the need for someone or something to assume the chamber's role in the community.

"It's critically important for local businesses to have this resource, especially in a time when so many are looking to do business or get services or shop locally," he said. "I think the right person or group could hopefully pick this up and put something back in place quickly."

Garrison expressed concern at being caught unaware of the chamber's circumstance.

"My concern as a commission member is that I found out about it on Facebook via a repost of a notice (the chamber was) selling its office furniture," Garrison said.

"This is not the time for this kind of direction. I'd have liked to think the commission and business leaders could have pulled together and tried to figure something out," said B.J. White, chairwoman of the Clintonville Area Commission.

"There are some other business networking groups in Clintonville, so maybe some things can start to happen, or maybe some business owners will get together and do something. But I'm not really thinking about that yet," Schatz said.

"I, for one, would love to work with fellow Clintonville citizens and any interested organizations with ensuring that our community can continue to enjoy events like these in the future -- when it is safe to do so and with new/different resources to make them happen," Curtis said. "The health of our Clintonville community is strong, and will continue to be even without the chamber.

"Perhaps we owe a lot of Clintonville's current and future greatness to these 25 years the chamber has invested in the community."

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews