Palmerton discusses whether to stay with Carbon Chamber
TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Dawn Ferrante, executive director of the Carbon County Economic Development Corporation, as well as president of the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce, discusses changes affecting the CCCC and the Industrial Development Corporation with members of the Palmerton Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.
Whether Palmerton will continue as part of the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce, or go another direction, remains to be seen.
Information and views on that very topic where discussed at length as part of the Palmerton Area Chamber of Commerce meeting on Tuesday.
Peter Kern, Palmerton Area Chamber of Commerce president, noted there are changes to the configuration of the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce and Carbon County Industrial Development Authority.
"We're in a transition phase," Kern said. "We're here to see what our course of action will be."
The Carbon County Economic Development Office will be privatized into the CCEDC; combined with the dissolved CCIDA, and merged with the CCCC.
Dawn Ferrante, executive director of the Carbon County Economic Development Corporation, explained the reason for the merger.
"Part of it was financial," Ferrante said. "We're trying to bring it into one centralized entity."
Ferrante, who also serves as president of the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce, said the privatization of the economic development office into the corporation now allows the corporation to be staffed, and will be partially funded through a grant given annually by the county.
She noted that the CCCC was in the process of restructuring, as its current dues sharing system was no longer working between the local chambers and councils that made up the county chamber because of rising costs.
In order to keep the chamber as a source for county businesses, Ferrante proposed the end to the dues sharing system to the local chambers and councils, as well as to either continue as part of the CCCC, or go in another direction.
Jim Thorpe's chamber has decided to focus on tourism within its borough, Ferrante said.
The new board of the new corporation will be comprised of five members of the CCCC, five members of the CCEDC, and five members of the dissolved CCIDA.
The name of the newly-formed group will be chosen during the new board's first official meeting in May.
Palmerton Chamber member Chris Anthony expressed concerns, and said he was one of the individuals who was opposed to the merger because he wasn't sure what exactly he was to vote on.
Kern said he shared Anthony's concern.
"We don't know what we're voting on," Kern said. "We have to know more about it before we make our decision."
Ferrante said she was surprised to see such a lack of communication that existed among the Palmerton Chamber on the issue.
"The most critical aspect of all of this is the communication," she said. "A strong chamber makes a strong business climate."
Barbara Green, owner of Blue Mountain Ski Area, said she supports the change.
"We need to be able to have access to other things," Green said. "It's about trying to get ourselves in position to compete with the Lehigh Valley."
Kern again attempted to explain the Palmerton chamber's situation.
"We're asked to vote on something we had very limited knowledge on," he said. "We, as an organization, did not know what we're voting on."
Gary Fedorcha, a member of the Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce, said he wasn't sold on the idea, and asked who would fund the group.
Ferrante said the group receives funding from the rent of a CCEDC funded industrial building in Nesquehoning; membership dues from the chambers; the county; and grants.
She then asked Fedorcha what benefits the group sees now.
Fedorcha said "for us, it's a matter of being a part of this organization; interaction."
Ferrante told Fedorcha that would still be the case, and then some.
Fedorcha responded "I just don't actually see the purpose of the merger."
Kern then offered his take on the situation.
"We need to put down in plain talk the purpose and objective and what we're being asked to vote on," he said. "If we can, I think we'll be able to do that."
Kern said the importance of the matter can't be understated.
"The future of Carbon County is something we're all interested in," he said. "What we need is a clear description of what we're being asked to vote on."