Two leading business-led civic organizations in Santa Barbara County’s South Coast will merge their operations as the COVID-19 pandemic causes unprecedented economic impacts for local businesses.
In a statement released Friday, business leaders from the Goleta Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region announced the merger of the two organizations, saying it creates a unified voice for South Coast businesses.
Boards of directors of both organizations voted unanimously to merge this week after several months of meeting with leadership and community stakeholders.
“Although our two cities have distinct histories and identities, we are eager to preserve and celebrate, our economies are inextricably linked and our business community is stronger together,” said Geoff Green, CEO of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation and chairman of the Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region.
“Combining our two organizations and our memberships ensures our region’s business community will be in the strongest possible position as we work toward economic recovery from the pandemic.”
While the organizational details of the new organization have yet to be determined, including a name, the mission is to unify the two organizations and promote the region’s economic priorities, leaders said in a statement.
“More than ever, the voice of business needs to be heard,” said Bill Macfadyen, founder and publisher of Noozhawk and chairman of the Goleta Chamber of Commerce.
“The combined chamber will be a force for economic development and policy in Santa Barbara County, as well as in the cities of Goleta and Santa Barbara.”
Merging the two chambers of commerce will streamline resources and focus their combined efforts on business recovery and economic vitality in the region, chamber staff said in a statement.
“After celebrating 142 years of serving our community, we recognize these times call for innovation,” said Stephanie Armstrong, interim executive director of the 600-member Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region. “Our goal is to increase value for our members, create a unified voice for business, enhance connections for our members and promote the interests of all companies in our region.”
One of the pillars of a chamber of commerce is representing business to government and the unified focus will provide the business reflection at the city, county and state level, said Kristen Miller, president and CEO of the 450-member Goleta Chamber of Commerce.
“The new chamber’s focus will continue relationships with city governments, as so much economic development comes through city policy,” Miller said.
Current members of both organizations will remain members of the new organization. All members will be contacted about the benefits and priorities of the combined group, according to the statement.
“Our regional business partnerships are invaluable,” said Bibi Moezzi, Pacific Premier Bank’s senior vice president and board member of the Santa Barbara Chamber. “The united organization is dedicated to serving our members and ensuring that they receive an excellent return on their investment.”
In addition to both organizations’ signature events and membership offerings, the Goleta Chamber of Commerce runs a robust “GoGoleta” visitor campaign and Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region runs two visitor centers in the waterfront.
Promoting the unique community characteristics and offerings will remain a top priority for the merged organization, especially when local businesses move toward economic recovery after the public health emergency.
“Regional businesses like ours are eager to see a more focused regional effort for government relations and economic development in our area,” said Kirsten McLaughlin, market vice president of Cox and board member of the Goleta Chamber of Commerce. “This is an exciting development for our community.”