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The Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce is telling members not to support the 'Washington County Chamber' renaming.

Leaders of the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce are hoping the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce's recent move to rebrand as the "Washington County Chamber" fails.

In a Friday, July 2, email, the two top officials at the Beaverton Chamber urged members that also do business in Hillsboro and are part of that city's chamber to vote "no" on the Hillsboro Chamber's new rebranding plan.

"If you are also a member of (the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce), we strongly recommend voting NO on your ballot," read the email from Keith Wright, the chamber's board chair, and interim director Stephen Smelley.

The message came two weeks after the Hillsboro Chamber announced it would rebrand as a countywide chamber.

COURTESY PHOTO - Stephen SmelleyThe announcement has caused anxiety in the county's other local chambers, who were not part of the rebranding effort. Some city-based chamber leaders think the move could harm their organizations and be confusing.

Hillsboro Chamber members are voting on the name change between July 1 and July 12.

The rebrand "causes us and our partners at other local chambers grave concern about any assumption or action that one chamber shall represent all businesses in Washington County," read the message from the leaders of the Beaverton Chamber. "This is simply not the case, nor should it be."

The message said six of the county's chambers are united in their opposition to the Hillsboro Chamber operating countywide.

"In truth, we are all Washington County Chambers of Commerce," the message read.

It did not specify which other chambers were united in opposition. Other chambers headquartered in Washington County include Banks, Forest Grove/Cornelius, Gales Creek, North Plains, Sherwood, Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville.

Last September, the Hillsboro Chamber attempted to create what it called a "unified business voice in Washington County" by convening a meeting with eight other chambers to discuss combining resources and enhancing collaboration, according to the Hillsboro Chamber's June 23 announcement.

Only the Beaverton Chamber expressed an interest in furthering such conversations, Hillsboro Chamber officials said.

Minutes from the Beaverton Chamber's board meetings earlier this year show the two chambers were working toward a consolidation or merger. The two organizations hired an attorney and a public relations firm to help the process.

In March, the chambers entered into a shared leadership contract, placing Deanna Palm, longtime president and chief executive of the Hillsboro Chamber, as its interim CEO. The arrangement had Palm working part-time at both chambers.

Two months later, the contract ended abruptly, and Palm went back to her role full-time at the Hillsboro Chamber.

About that time, the two chambers ended their discussions about a merger, minutes from a May Beaverton Chamber board meeting show.

In July 5 statement to Pamplin Media Group, Jayne Bond, board chair of the Hillsboro Chamber, said she was surprised and confused by Beaverton Chamber leadership encouraging members to vote "no" on the Hillsboro Chamber's rebranding move.

"Both chambers were in discussions and negotiations weekly, for seven months regarding consolidating the chambers and naming the new organization the 'Washington County Chamber of Commerce,'" Bond said. "Mr. Smelley and Mr. Wright were intimately involved in those discussions."

Bond continued, "The Hillsboro Chamber left the negotiations in May with no ill will towards the Beaverton Chamber nor its leadership. It was no surprise to the Beaverton Chamber that Hillsboro Chamber was moving forward with this name change.

The Hillsboro Chamber decided to continue with the name change without the Beaverton Chamber because it saw the benefits of the work to create a countywide chamber, Bond said.

She noted that the documents the Hillsboro Chamber submitted to its members to approve the name change were primarily the same ones a joint taskforce between the two chambers previously agreed to provide to their boards.

Bond said the rebranding move will fill a void in the business community.

"Washington County Chamber of Commerce membership is an 'and' not an 'or,'" Bond said, echoing a recent comment by Palm.

The message from Beaverton Chamber leaders to its dual members signals an uneasiness about how the Hillsboro Chamber's name change will impact other chambers.

But in a recent interview, Smelley said he isn't concerned businesses will end their membership in the Beaverton Chamber and opt to be a member of a countywide chamber instead.

"I don't know that I'm overly worried," Smelley said, adding that it's common for businesses to be members of multiple business organizations. "It's confusing to rebrand to a countywide name when there are multiple chambers of commerce in each of the local municipalities."


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