The merger comes after several months of discussions and in response to current economic conditions, which officials said prompted the need for each agency to become more efficient in its work.
“Joining together will provide members with increased benefits, eliminate duplication of functions and improve the effectiveness of each entity’s broad scope of current events,” Bruce Gescheider, chairman of the RSCC, said in a statement.
A transition committee comprised of four representatives from each organization’s board of directors is charged with working through the details of consolidation, which include questions about staffing levels, bylaw changes, membership dues and location. Perhaps most urgently, the committee must settle on a new name for the merged groups.
Another major concern yet to be hashed out is whether the new organization will receive public funding, as EDAWN does, or whether it will remain a truly private operation, such as the chambers of commerce.
There is a model in consideration that could see the creation of an economic development arm, which would receive public funding, within the merged organization, said Dick Bostdorff, an independent local consultant working as a lead facilitator of the merger. Meanwhile, the functions typically associated with the chambers of commerce would exist within a separate, privately financed accounting wing.
With so many things left to be determined, it would appear as though the timing of the announcement might be premature, as though board members took the leap of faith hoping to spot a good landing on the way down.
But getting information about the merger out to the public now, “instead of working under cover of darkness for two years,” was an important step, said Tray Abney, director of government relations for the RSCC.
Enlisting the input of the community and chamber members would be necessary to address the challenges that lie ahead, Bostdorff said.
Ultimately, Wednesday’s announcement boils down to dollars and cents.
Restructuring, consolidating and streamlining services and operations are vital to meet the strains and demands of the current economy, officials said.
Sparks Councilman Ed Lawson called the move a “good idea” and said it would better focus efforts on economic development, business growth and job creation in the city and across Washoe County.
Mike Bosma, a local tax specialist and business advocate, believes egos and personal agendas could be an impediment to the merger’s success.
“The key is that everybody agrees on roles and responsibilities,” Bosma said.
If a sense of camaraderie is formed, then the experience of board members can work for, and not against, the ultimate success of the merger.
“It’s important that everyone buys in,” Bosma said.
It has been standard protocol for chambers of commerce to lecture city and state governments on the need to be fiscally responsible, particularly in recent years. And so now the time seems to have come for the chambers to meet their own demands.
“For us to tell governments to do that and not be willing to do that ourselves is hypocritical,” Abney said.