Souhegan, Merrimack chambers merge

Today marks the start of a new era for the local business community, as the Souhegan Valley and Merrimack chambers of commerce are now one.

Board members from both chambers reached a mutually beneficial agreement to move forward together via a new regional partnership: The Greater Merrimack-Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce, which is effective today.

Officials are confident that combining their resources will positively impact economic development opportunities, offer a broader range of member services and programs, boost the small business programs in the region and increase the opportunities for leadership to develop a stronger business climate.

“The main thing is, it gives us an opportunity to be a larger voice in our region,” President and CEO Wendy Hunt said.

Leaders said the two chambers shared a similar philosophy: “To promote, maintain and enhance the area’s economic climate so businesses will locate in our region, grow and hire employees, and stay in our area.”

In the coming weeks, chamber staff members and the board of directors will work closely together to transition into a regional chamber, focusing their efforts on business advocacy, networking events, economic development, business education opportunities, workforce development, tourism in the region and other issues pertinent to the success of their member businesses.

Officials are confident this is the right move at the right time. SVCC Board Chair Mark Constable said this merger will allow for broader business relationships, and that together, those involved can support businesses in both the Merrimack and Souhegan Valley communities to promote growth.

“Merging makes us a stronger chamber, which means we can provide more opportunities for our members, such as education seminars,” Constable stated via email.

With this merger, officials are aiming for a stronger collective voice to help businesses at the local, regional and state levels.

Past SVCC Chair Becky Tripp believes joining with the Merrimack organization will help everyone involved. She and husband Paul operate Classic Signs Inc., a business through which they have provided image consulting and signage to numerous Merrimack neighbors during the past 30 years. They appreciate the opportunity they will now have to further connect and expand their marketing territory.

“When that sentiment is multiplied over the broad range of businesses involved in chamber membership, it’s easy to see how this merged organization can revolutionize the business landscape in our area,” Tripp stated via email. “We’re stronger when we work together and I’m confident this new alliance will bring an invigorated spirit to our region and beyond.”

Merrimack Public Library Director Yvette Couser has served on the Merrimack board and believes this merger is a wonderful opportunity. Couser said Merrimack members want to be able to reach more people and receive assistance. With this collaboration, members should be able to spread their messages farther.

United Way of Greater Nashua President Mike Apfelberg believes this will strengthen the overall chamber community by bringing the two together. Apfelberg views plenty of existing synergies for the two chambers, with plenty of shared territory, business interests and similarities involving the communities. Apfelberg believes this is going to be an easy merger.

“It opens doors for all members, but it opens resources for Merrimack and brings additional resources to Souhegan Valley because of the additional membership base,” Apfelberg said.

Humane Society for Greater Nashua Director of Development Laurie Dufault has served on the Merrimack chamber board for more than two years. She said members originating from either chamber will benefit from access to significantly more networking events and increased opportunities to grow their businesses to new audiences. She said this has been in discussion for a few months.

“We know that combining our resources at this time in our collective histories will positively impact economic development opportunities, boost small business programming and advocacy and increase the opportunities for leadership to develop a stronger business climate,” Dufault said.

With this merger, Hunt said business membership is nearing 400. The 11 towns geographically affiliated with the Souhegan Valley Chamber include: Amherst, Brookline, Greenville, Hollis, Lyndeborough, Mason, Milford, Mont Vernon, New Ipswich, Temple, and Wilton. However, SVCC members also hail from Nashua, Bedford, Manchester, Merrimack, Concord and other towns throughout southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts. Current Souhegan Valley and Merrimack chamber board members will be part of the combined GMSVCC Board.

Those seeking more information on the new chamber should contact Hunt at wendy.hunt@souhegan.net, or call the office at 603-673-4360.

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.