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Not all towns on board with regional Chamber of Commerce

By Sally Voth - svoth@nvdaily.com

The Strasburg Chamber of Commerce is not planning to join the newly announced Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce, its president said Tuesday.

That's in contrast to what Woodstock Chamber Executive Director Jenna French said last week. French, who said the transition to the countywide entity would be complete by next March, said the chambers in Strasburg and New Market would remain open while participating in the regional one. She said those in Edinburg and Mt. Jackson would likely be absorbed into the new chamber.

However, Strasburg Chamber President Rich Orndorff likened the move to a "Wall Street hostile takeover."

"To me and to our board, our feeling was this was to be a collaborative effort, this was to be joint," he said in a Tuesday afternoon interview. "It wasn't supposed to be a Wall Street hostile takeover."

Orndorff said his chamber did initiate discussions which led to an exploratory committee looking into a regional body.

"That's been discussed for probably about 15-20 years," he said.

The Strasburg Chamber feels the move by Woodstock is a little premature, according to Orndofff.

"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."

Plus, there are questions regarding the status of the town's local chamber office and staff member, Orndorff said.

He referenced an email from French to Woodstock chamber members which says that during an April 9 meeting, each chamber was asked to come up with suggestions regarding a regional effort and a financial plan.

"The outcome of the meeting ended in a standstill: Each locality supported the creation of a countywide chamber, but there was simply no agreement on a financial framework to comprehensively integrate the localities; there was also a strong desire for each local chamber to stand alone in order to maintain its local identity," the email states.

Among the reasons the email gives for pursuing a county chamber are a quarter of the Woodstock Chamber's membership is drawn from outside of town, more members are needed to keep it financially strong, and doing so would bring more exposure to member businesses.

The email proposes some bylaw changes, such as having board members from all over the county, keeping French as executive director for the first two years and setting up local advisory councils.

"There's really no opposition to any of those ideas," Orndorff said. "It's just the fact that nothing was spelled out.

"We proposed that we start small because there was some question about whether or not we would maintain an office. Geographically, we have a very long county. We receive [a] generous financial contribution from the town of Strasburg.

"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. We're the Strasburg Chamber of Commerce, and we're going to remain the Strasburg Chamber of Commerce."

The New Market Chamber of Commerce hasn't decided what to do yet, according to board member Cathy Wittig-Donald.

"I think we were waiting to see what happened with that," she said on Tuesday. "We knew that it was going to come to a vote [in Woodstock]. We've been discussing it. There hasn't been a decision yet."


Thank You Strasburg Chamber, Rich Orndorff, and the Town Staff for sticking to your guns and not allowing the "County" to persuade our town!! We need to be a defined entity that works in collaboration with the County only not allowing the County to make all the decisions! They do not need the authority to define our town! Maybe the other towns like the way our town functions and wants to mirror us, great collaborate with them, invite them to meetings but each town has a different perspective, different commerce and different decisions that need to be made. Thank you for standing up to the "good ole boys" whose days in supervisory positions are long past their prime. We have seen the Town of Strasburg grow by leaps and bounds with its proximity to I81-66 iand it will continue to grow. We need to continue to employ staff for our town that has a vision for expansion and to allow commerce into it as well. Keep up the good work. I realize that criticism comes with the terriotory in any government position and you can't please everyone but stand your ground and our town will continue to prosper!

Strasburg is too afraid someone will have a say in how they waste taxpayer money. They want to keep it all for themselves to waste.

It would be great if the Strasburg Chamber did something for the business on King Street.

Hopefully, our Chamber will actually communicate with the other chamber to make Strasburg alive again. Our business in town depend on all the citizens in the county to buy in their businesses.

What is old is new again tour is the first step that the Chamber has taken in 12 years to help the merchants downtown. Hope it is a success!

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