The two largest business organizations in Santa Barbara County announced April 24 that they will merge into one group
“As a result of the unprecedented economic impacts to local businesses from the COVID-19 crisis, business leaders from the Goleta Chamber of Commerce and The Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region announced the merger of the two organizations, ensuring both a solid future for the business community and a unified voice for businesses throughout southern Santa Barbara County,” said the leaders of both groups in emails.
Kristen Miller is the president and CEO of the Goleta Chamber of Commerce and Stephanie Armstrong is the interim executive director of the Santa Barbara chamber, which was founded in 1878.
The Goleta chamber was founded in 1947 and boasts some 450 members. The Santa Barbara chamber has lost many members in the wake of its crisis in leadership since the departures of former chief Ken Oplinger in late 2018.
The idea of consolidating the chambers has been kicked around over the years, but a decade ago when the Santa Barbara chamber went through a leadership change many members or potential members fled to the Goleta chamber.
“After several months of meeting with leadership and community stakeholders, the boards of directors of the Goleta Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region unanimously voted on April 22, 2020 to pursue the merger,” the joint email read. “The decision was made in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to best serve the needs of the region’s business community in this extraordinarily challenging moment.”
The decision also comes in the wake of the March departure of the head of the Santa Barbara Downtown chief Carrie Kelly who fled back to Arizona last month.
“Although our two cities have distinct histories and identities that we are eager to preserve and celebrate, our economies are inextricably linked and our business community is stronger together,” said Geoff Green, current chairman of the Santa Barbara chamber. “Combining our two organizations and our memberships ensures that our region’s business community will be in the strongest possible position as we work toward economic recovery from the pandemic.”
The email said while the details of the exact configuration and even the name of the new organization are still being determined, the clear mission and vision is to unite the organizations and promote the region’s economic priorities. “Acting now to merge the two chambers of commerce is paramount to providing necessary support that includes streamlined resources and supportive economic revitalization strategies,” it said.
Current members of both organizations will remain members of the new greater organization and all members will be contacted soon about the benefits and priorities of the combined organization.
“Our regional business partnerships are invaluable,” said Bibi Moezzi, senior vice president at Pacific Premier Bank and board member on the Santa Barbara chamber. “The united organization is dedicated to serving our members and ensuring that they receive an excellent return on their investment.”
Posted April 24, 2020.