Three of the driving forces for economic development on Santa Barbara County’s South Coast are merging this week to create a better business environment out of the coronavirus pandemic-driven economic meltdown.
After recent strategy meetings with leadership, the Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce will be uniting with the Goleta Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region to form the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce.
The boards of directors of all three chambers unanimously approved the merger last week, and the history-making unification becomes effective July 1.
The new chamber is expected to have more than 1,100 members.
“There’s definitely an economy of scale and efficiency by putting us all together to work toward a common goal that I think our members are going to feel pretty quickly,” Kristen Miller, who has served as president and CEO of the Goleta Chamber of Commerce for the last 18 years, told Noozhawk.
Miller will lead the organization as president and CEO.
In a statement released Monday, chamber officials said they believe the organization will be a more effective advocate for business issues and concerns while providing vital leadership, resources and support in the face of an unprecedented economic catastrophe.
Miller said a unified organization gives members the benefit of one board of directors and expert staff to focus on key pieces like advocacy with Santa Barbara County, public policy work in the region and supporting industry sectors throughout the South Coast.
“As our current business climate continues to evolve, we tried to forecast our members’ future needs and give Carpinteria a stronger voice in the South County,” said Curtis Lopez, board chairman of the Carpinteria Valley chamber and a retired senior executive at Santa Barbara-based Mission Linen.
“Being a native Carpinterian, I did not take this merger lightly, but I and my fellow board members believe this is our future.”
Lopez and his counterparts from the Goleta and Santa Barbara chambers — Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen and Geoff Green, CEO of the SBCC Foundation, respectively — will serve as co-chairmen of the new chamber during the transition period through the end of the year.
In addition, the 15-member transition committee, made up of five board members from each chamber, will continue on as the executive committee for the three chambers’ now-combined Board of Directors.
Recognizing the business community has connections throughout the three cities, local leaders said the united group best represents business and community needs across government boundaries.
The unique qualities of each community’s culture, events and neighborhoods will be honored and cherished while a new focus on countywide and regional issues can be addressed, the chamber statement said.
The Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce is eager to preserve the distinct character of each city and focus on individual needs, as well as the regional needs of the business community, according to officials.
The signature events and networking opportunities of each chamber are included in the merged program of work, the statement said. Given that events are currently prohibited by the coronavirus response, the organization is working to pivot priorities to serve members in new ways during the pandemic.
The newly formed chamber is dedicated to the economic health and vitality of the South Coast.
Topping the list of key work will be advocating for responsible public policy, offering networking and community-building opportunities, providing access to business development resources and supporting visitor services across the region.
Joyce Donaldson, president and CEO of the Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce, will serve as the organization’s chief operating officer and Carpinteria liaison, overseeing operations and Carpinteria-centric initiatives.
Donaldson became the president and CEO of the Carpinteria Valley Chamber in 2015, and she brings 17 years of professional chamber leadership experience.
“The Carpinteria chamber board of directors and leadership teams are enthusiastic about the newly formed chamber,” she said. “This is an exciting step to unify the voice of the entire business community in the South Coast region, combining our robust resources and talent to create an even stronger environment in which businesses can flourish.”
Stephanie Armstrong, interim executive director of the Santa Barbara chamber, will serve as the organization’s chief marketing officer.
Armstrong, a fourth-generation Santa Barbaran, will oversee communication, marketing and public policy. She has been with the chamber for nine years.
“The current economic and cultural climate we find ourselves in calls for change, innovation and unity,” she said. “By joining forces we will be a stronger, more unified voice with the combined leadership from our three organizations in achieving our common goal to help our businesses and represent the unique qualities of our communities.
“We are excited for this next chapter.”
Cortney Hebert Rintoul, the Goleta chamber’s vice president, will serve as chief development officer overseeing business development, membership and events. She has been with the chamber for 10 years.
Carpinteria’s decision comes after the boards of the Goleta and Santa Barbara chambers announced in April that they would merge to better craft a COVID-19 response and recovery while creating conditions for long-term economic development and growth.
“The leadership from all three organizations are excited for the immense potential of a regional chamber to be a voice for business,” Miller said.