RAEDC & Rockford Chamber Unification

RAEDC Rockford Chamber Unification Logo

Unification Process Update – February 2020

A unification task force made up of board members of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) and the Rockford Chamber of Commerce (Rockford Chamber) hired a firm from Austin, TX to lead the organizations’ unification process.

The task force studied several models for unification used by similar groups nationwide and chose to pursue a “Partnership Umbrella” structure. Within that structure, the Rockford Chamber and RAEDC would be unified, but not merged, each maintaining a separate board and a separate, defined focus. They would be housed under a 501C6 organization and aligned in their goals, their work and the metrics they are trying to achieve for the region.  They would also share costs for services like HR, operations, marketing, and I.T.

The task force identified several advantages of the umbrella partnership model including:

  • Speaking with a stronger, unified voice on behalf of the community
  • Making it easy for business leaders and site selectors to know who to call for assistance
  • Align goals for stronger benefits to business and the community
  • Alignment of volunteer hours and activities
  • Greater focus and impact on local, state and federal government affairs and advocacy
  • Accountability and tracking of results

The task force set a goal for completion of the facilitator-led plan for the first quarter of 2020.

At that time, both boards will have the opportunity to issue a yes/no vote on the unification plan and, if approved, begin implementation. The task force work helped to conclude that both organizations will be stronger, more accountable, more efficient and more effective working more closely together.

Avalanche Consulting will help the task force obtain stakeholder input, identify best practices, and subsequently develop goals, programs, metrics and governance structure for the unified organization.

“We researched and evaluated a number of firms across the country and Avalanche stood out as the best choice based on their vast experience providing the services we were looking for, their fresh, outside view of our region and their focus on economic development strategies, organizational assessments, workforce development,” said Jeff Hultman, the task force’s chairman.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to consult the RAEDC and Chamber of Commerce on this important and timely process,” said Avalanche Consulting President/CEO Amy Holloway.

Community members are encouraged to check back for updates on the unification process over the next several weeks.

If you have questions please feel free to contact Nathan Bryant, President & CEO of the RAEDC at NBryant@RockfordIL.com or call 815.987.8118.

Facilitator Selection

The unification task force hired Avalanche Consulting from Austin, TX

The task force considered several firms, evaluating proposals from four. Avalanche was chosen due to:

  • Vast industry experience including 150 clients, small to large, in the economic development/Chamber arena
  • Fresh, outside view of our region coupled with national best practices
  • Focus on economic development strategies, organizational assessments, workforce development, marketing and research

Avalanche Consulting will assist with:

  • Stakeholder Input
  • Organizational Structure within Partnership Umbrella model
  • Governance
  • Funding Model
  • Goals/Programs
  • Performance Measures
  • Implementation Workshops, as needed
  • Follow-up, as needed

What is “Partnership Umbrella” Structure?

  • Unified but not merged
  • Under the “Partnership Umbrella” structure, the Rockford Chamber, RAEDC and its shared services like HR, operations, marketing and I.T. would be housed under an umbrella 501C6 organization; they would retain their separate boards and individual focus but would work together on coordinated agendas for the region
  • Existing political action committee will be held outside of this structure

How We Got Here

  • Members of both organizations’ boards began discussions several months ago
  • Both boards agreed to form a Unification Task Force in May, made up of members of both boards, to consider unification of the organizations
  • Task Force began meeting in June to evaluate ten national models for unification
  • Both boards passed a resolution in September to pursue and develop plans for a “Partnership Umbrella” model for unification
  • Task force hired a facilitator in October
  • Goal set for completing the unification plan by end of first quarter of 2020

Historical Note:  The Chamber and RAEDC were jointly managed until 2004 when they separated for a variety of reasons

Next Steps

  • Avalanche Consulting will begin with a survey, focus groups and stakeholder input in the next 30 days
  • They will then do on-site meetings, off-site consulting and develop a unification plan
  • Both boards will have the opportunity to issue a yes/no vote on the unification plan and, if approved, begin implementation in the 2nd quarter of 2020

Overall Goal for Unification of Chamber and RAEDC

“The Rockford regional business community believes that by speaking with a unified voice, working from a coordinated agenda, and collectively committing to measuring and achieving key outcome metrics, our region will grow and prosper.”

Guiding Principles:

  • Clear Focus. Both organizations need to solidify their respective focus areas, enhancing collaboration and unification of what needs to get done and who owns it. 
  • Governance Best Practices.  Enact best practices for organizational governance in both organizations. 
  • Accountability. Ensure we, not only track activity but also results and impact from the organizations’ respective plans.
  • Strategic shared business services.  Both organizations need to work toward shared services to free up dollars for more strategic investment.