Despite merchants' concerns, Hillsboro Chamber rebrands
The Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce has been renamed the "Washington County Chamber of Commerce."
Members of the chamber voted to officially approve a rebrand of the business organization during a nearly two-week period which ended Monday, July 12, according to an announcement by the chamber Tuesday, July 13.
The Washington County Chamber says it is seeking to use the new name to amplify members' voices at the county and state levels, as well as bring in new members from unincorporated Washington County.
"By creating the WCCC, our goal is to provide membership options to the 6,000 businesses in unincorporated Washington County," read a statement by the chamber's board chair Jayne Bond and chief executive Deanna Palm. "If you are a current member, your benefits will not change."
Leaders of the chamber have previously said Washington County's rapid growth and changing economy necessitated the name change.
The chamber is currently recruiting for a public policy and government relations director as part of the work toward its expanded goals.
The decision to rebrand as a countywide chamber has frustrated leaders of other chambers of commerce in Washington County, who say the move will only confuse people. There are eight other city-based chambers of commerce in the county.
Several leaders in other chambers have been concerned the move will compel their members to leave their local chamber for the rebranded countywide chamber.
"We understand that this decision has created some concerns among other Washington County chambers," Washington County Chamber leaders said in their announcement of the voting result. "This was not our intention. We value our relationships with these colleagues and intend to continue collaborating."
Leaders of multiple other chambers actively lobbied their members that are also members of the Washington County Chamber to vote "no" on the name change.
More than 85% of ballots cast were in favor of the name change, said Jen Little, director of communications and brand strategy for the Washington County Chamber. Nearly 20% of members voted, Little said.
"Your Board and I do not believe this is done in good faith, nor is it in the best interest of the Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce," Juanita Lint, director of the chamber in Forest Grove and Cornelius, stated in a July 1 email to members encouraging them to vote against the name change.
Similar messages were sent by leaders of the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce.
The message from Beaverton Chamber leaders said six chambers in the county were united in opposing Hillsboro Chamber's name change.
The rebranding effort was not always intended to be done unilaterally, however.
In a June 24 message announcing the Hillsboro Chamber's plans to rebrand, chamber officials said they engaged with the eight other chambers in September 2020, with hopes to increase sharing of resources and enhancing collaboration.
Only the Beaverton Chamber expressed interest in furthering such conversations, Washington County Chamber officials said.
Leaders of the two chambers held meetings for months in late 2020 and early 2021 about what Beaverton Chamber meeting minutes describe as a "merger."
They went as far as jointly hiring an attorney and public relations firm. In March, the two chambers entered into a shared leadership contract, placing Palm as the part-time interim president and CEO of the Beaverton Chamber while serving in her Hillsboro Chamber role part-time as well.
That relationship ended abruptly two months later, when the chambers announced that the shared contract had ended, despite the Beaverton Chamber not identifying a new permanent leader.
Beaverton Chamber officials have said plans to unify did not move forward because ??the Beaverton Chamber would not have received a full-time CEO, the process was rushed, the attorney was hired too late, and both chambers had concerns about whether they could get adequate membership approval.
According to minutes from a Beaverton Chamber board meeting in May, "staff challenges with the transition" also contributed to the end of unification discussions.
A longtime Beaverton Chamber employee and a board member resigned earlier this year amid the possible merger, describing a hostile work environment created by Palm and a lack of transparency by the members of the chambers' transition team.
Palm has declined to comment on the accusations.
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