Chamber Merger 'Years in The Making'

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The new president of the combined Carmel and Fishers chambers of commerce says the decision to join forces boils down to "if not now, when and if not us, who?" The combination will result in OneZone, which will be led by current Carmel Chamber President Mo Merhoff. Fishers Chamber President and former Muncie Mayor Dan Canan will serve as executive vice president. Dan LaReau, an executive with St. Vincent Hospital in Carmel, will become chair of OneZone's 25-member board.

February 10, 2015

News Release

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. - Recognizing that commerce doesn't stop at municipal borders, the boards of directors for the Carmel and Fishers chambers of commerce have voted to merge. The new organization, formed to more efficiently promote the business interests of their members, will be called OneZone.

"Informal conversations about potential mergers have been taking place for decades, and last year the boards of the Carmel and Fishers chambers took those conversations to a higher level," said Dan LaReau, the St. Vincent Carmel Hospital executive director of operations and information who will serve as OneZone's inaugural board chair.

Ultimately, the boards agreed that a unified approach to business promotion and advocacy makes sense as regional approaches gain momentum.

"As organizations that focus on the economic success of our members, we recognized that we can increase member opportunities through a combined effort," said LaReau, who represents St. Vincent's Fishers operations and who served last year as chair-elect of the Fishers Chamber of Commerce.

OneZone's 25-member board will include the entirety of both current boards. Mo Merhoff, Carmel Chamber president, will serve as OneZone president, and Dan Canan, Fishers Chamber president and CEO, will serve as OneZone executive vice president.

Members of the current Carmel and Fishers chambers are expected to ratify the board's approval of the merger on Feb. 20 between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. at The Mansion at Oak Hill, 5801 E. 116th St., Carmel and at FORUM Conference Center, 11313 USA Parkway, Fishers. Members will receive more information and a proxy by mail, giving them the option to vote early or by proxy.

"Some members have been asking for years when we were going to merge," said Canan. "Businesses don't pay attention to local borders when they're looking for employees, clients, vendors or customers, and neither should we."

In the past, some businesses paid to be members of both chambers. The merger will allow all members to enjoy the benefits of both organizations while only joining one.

Even the new name reflects this vision of unity. "We chose the name OneZone because it describes what we see for the future: multiple communities, but one place to do business," Merhoff said. "We will be a stronger voice, a significant presence and a business advocate in an ever-changing workplace."

Annual membership dues will remain the same.

"OneZone makes sense for a variety of reasons," said Tanya Foster, a OneZone board member and owner of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a salon with locations in Fishers and Carmel. "The merger means that small business members have the opportunity to reach larger audiences for the same investment of time and money."

Matt Frey, a OneZone board member and owner of Bub's Burgers & Ice Cream in Carmel, Zionsville and Bloomington, added, "This is all about giving the business community the kind of support, advocacy and service it needs to continue to grow."

Collaborative efforts among Hamilton County chambers have been taking place for more than a decade, with such events as the all-county annual luncheon and all-county women in business luncheon. In addition, the county's six chambers have combined their legislative efforts for six years with the Hamilton County Business Issues Committee, which focuses on business-friendly legislation at the county and state level.

"We're doing this from a position of strength," said LaReau. "Both organizations are financially solid and membership is growing at a time when many chambers around the country are losing members."

Members range from large companies, hospitals and banks to small businesses such as retail shops, hair salons and restaurants and everything in between. OneZone's combined membership will be approximately 1,200.

Sources: The Carmel Chamber of Commerce, The Fishers Chamber of Commerce