The memberships of both chambers of commerce in Fulton and Montgomery counties will decide April 26 whether to merge the two organizations to form a new 1,400-member chamber called the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The Board of Directors of the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry voted unanimously Monday to pass what's called a plan of merger. The board of the Montgomery County chamber voted unanimously in favor of the plan Tuesday.
Members of the Fulton County chamber can vote in person at a meeting at the Holiday Inn in Johnstown at 4 p.m. April 26.
Montgomery County chamber Interim President Peter Capobianco said members have until 2 p.m. April 26 to cast their votes in person at 1166 Riverfront Center in Amsterdam, where the chamber currently leases offices.
Both chambers say they will issue proxy forms to members who can't vote in person.
A 10 percent turnout of each chamber's membership is required for the vote to count. A majority of voters in each chamber must approve for the merger to pass.
"What members will be voting on, as a plan of merger, includes a new name, the fact that the two entities [would] be merged into a new company, and the makeup of the board of directors," Fulton County Chamber Interim President Terry Swierzowski, also director of tourism and communications, said Friday.
Swierzowski said Fulton County chamber staffers have been tasked with calling every member to explain the merger process.
If members pass the plan, Fulton County's 850 membership and Montgomery county's 550 membership would merge to create what Capobianco said would be the third largest chamber in the Capital District - smaller only than the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce's 3,000 members and the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce's 2,300 members.
I see the advantage," Capobianco said. "Mostly for the strength in unity and having the two counties together. I'm in favor of it. I think it's just another one of those things that brings the two counties together...to improve economic development, which we sorely need."
The two boards - 13 members in Montgomery County and 23 in Fulton County - also would merge.
Swierzowski will stay with the chamber through April 30, when she'll begin a new job as director of communications at Lexington Center.
Capobianco has been involved with his chamber since the 1980s holding various offices, including board chairman. He said he'd like to step aside and let someone else take the permanent president position of the new chamber if the merger is approved.
Swierzowski on Tuesday told the Fulton County supervisors' Economic Development and Environment Committee she's already told Montgomery Council chamber representatives that in the event of a merger, Fulton County's funding would be dedicated to tourism.
"During this whole process, I've been imparting on them how important it is to delineate," she said.
She said she suggested funding lines be delineated if both chambers merge.
She also said she informed the staff at Fulton County's Gateway to the Adirondacks Visitor Center in Vail Mills to continue to refer visitors to Fulton County businesses, which is the current practice.
"They've been told that visitor center is Fulton County's," Swierzowski said. "Both boards are very sensitive to the issue."
Swierzowski told supervisors the Fulton County Chamber building on the corner of East Fulton and North Main streets would be considered the "principal office" if the merger comes to fruition.
Details about staffing and the future of the two locations are still unknown and would be left to the Board of Directors if the merger is approved.
Fulton County owns its location, but Montgomery County has an agreement to lease its space in the Riverfront Center through April 2013.
Swierzowski said since merger discussions began, some small "mom and pop" businesses in Fulton County said they are concerned they'll get "swallowed up" by a much larger chamber.
"We don't let that happen in our chamber and that won't happen in the new one," Swierzowski said.
Matching funds would continue to be earmarked for each county, she said, but there are some ventures both counties' chambers will continue to work on together, including the harvest map and snowmobile trail map.
Michael Anich contributed to this report. Amanda Whistle covers Gloversville news and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.