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Move toward county chamber has been transparent, director says

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

The executive director of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce -- now in the process of becoming the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce -- says the transition has been transparent.

Jenna French's comments came in response to those of Strasburg Chamber of Commerce president Rich Orndorff.

Orndorff on Tuesday likened the move to form the county chamber to a "Wall Street hostile takeover."

French announced last week that the Woodstock chamber had voted to change its name, with the transition being complete by March.

"We've actually been talking with the other chambers for almost a year now," French said. "The Strasburg chamber had initiated conversations last year about us all possibly merging."

She had said that Edinburg and Mt. Jackson would dissolve their chambers and fold into the countywide effort, with New Market and Strasburg maintaining theirs, but participating at the county level, too.

On Tuesday, Orndorff agreed his chamber had initiated discussions -- with the idea having been tossed around for 15 to 20 years -- but wasn't ready to participate in the county chamber.

"We're not joining at this point at my board's direction simply for the fact that we don't have enough information," he said. "We have no idea of the financial structure. We have not seen a budget. The other concern we had was the board makeup.

"It appears to me like a Wall Street hostile takeover, and it appears like a collaborative effort has now become well, this is what we're going to do, get on the train, the train's pulling out. That concerns us."

On Wednesday, French stressed that her chamber wants to work with all the chambers.
"We knew that they intended to keep [their] office open," she said of Strasburg. "We want to work together with them and have this be a united partnership."

French said the Woodstock body has been trying to schedule a meeting with its counterpart in Strasburg for about a month to try to collaborate.

"Throughout this process ... we have been very open with everything that we have been doing," she said. "We held multiple open houses for our members, and also they were made open and available to members and board members of the other chambers. We've been trying to be as transparent about this as possible, and I really feel like we have been from the start."

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