When one is better than two

February 23, 2019

La PORTE — Two La Porte economic development organizations have decided to join forces in an effort to grow the city’s competitive advantage.

The boards of directors of the Greater La Porte Chamber of Commerce and the Greater La Porte Economic Development Corporation recently agreed to combine expertise under one umbrella and form a new alliance. The goal is to build a high-functioning, multi-faceted economic development and business support center, according to Bert Cook, executive director of GLEDC.

Cook, named director of the new alliance, said the next step is a series of strategic visioning workshops that will determine the alliance’s shared vision, name and brand identity.

He said he expects the alliance to provide “focused, high-value services and programs” to each organization’s respective members and clients, with economic development professionals focused on business prospects and chamber professionals focused on “creating the ideal environment for businesses to thrive.”

Matthew Hagenow, GLEDC board chair, said the alliance was something that has been needed.

“Over the last several years, we have listened closely to our business community, local government and citizens. Time and again we have heard the desire to have our services and professionals located in one, convenient place, under one roof,” he said.

“By aligning the two organizations, we will be able to develop programs and services under a unified vision, which we believe will accelerate La Porte’s widespread competitive advantage in attracting and retaining business.”

The “better together” concept regarding economic development and chamber organizations has gained popularity in recent years and dozens of such hybrid organizations have emerged across the nation over the last several years, Cook said.

“There are models like this across the nation,” he said. “We picked components from each that we saw as valuable in our community. This type of partnership is definitely a trend nationally.

“Essentially, we want to invigorate and improve what is working well and shed what isn’t. The best way to do that is to rebuild our organizations in conjunction with each other,” Cook said.

“It is a tremendous opportunity. Our boards have entrusted us with the challenge of building an innovative center for economic prosperity. We are up for it, and cannot wait to get started.”

Cook said the visioning group intends to pull from best practices, but ultimately will structure the business center to be closely aligned with La Porte’s unique and specific needs.

Jackie Dermody, board chair of the Chamber of Commerce, said she believes the organizations are perfectly poised to make an innovative change that will exceed expectations.

“The La Porte Community is on the verge of exciting developments,” she said. “Our new alliance will help to ensure that these two organizations continue to be leaders in this area. I have no doubt that this new alliance will set a standard for service in this community.”

The alliance will operate chamber of commerce and economic development functions independently, with oversight from the two boards of directors. However, it will share staff, workspace and overall vision so the organizations can be “more closely aligned as they represent the business interests of the greater La Porte community,” Cook said.

All current staff will be retained, according to Cook. “Between the two organizations we used to have seven or eight staff members, but now we will have five. There were four at the time of the agreement and we have one more to be announced at the State of the City event. Our new hire will be focused on service for our existing business membership.”

And Cook will be doing double duty as director of the alliance, while continuing to be focused on economic development in La Porte, he said.

The alliance will likely create capacity for additional staff resources in key areas, so the organizations can “inject necessary resources” into programs like the Chamber’s Workforce Development Task Force and GLEDC’s prospect development initiatives, Cook said.

More details will be announced in the coming weeks. For more information, visit gledc.com or www.lpchamber.com.

—From staff reports

State of the City

A major staffing announcement on the new alliance between the Greater La Porte Chamber of Commerce and GLEDC will be made during the State of the City address, to be hosted by the Chamber on March 8 at the La Porte Civic Auditorium.

Mayor Mark Krentz said his address will recap the successes of 2018 and identify future goals for the city – “celebrating the community, recognizing areas of progress and accomplishments, while highlighting continued focus on safety, infrastructure improvements, growth and prosperity.”

Registration begins at 11 a.m. with lunch at 11:30 a.m. Pre-registration is encouraged at lpchamber.com or by calling 219-362-3178. Cost is $33 for Chamber members and $38 for general admission.

La Porte Hospital is premier sponsor, and other sponsors include Centier Bank, Regional Development Company, First Trust Credit Union, General Insurance Services, Walsh & Kelly, Horizon Bank, Parkison & Hinton, Rieth-Riley Construction Company, Hatfield Pest Control, Tonn and Blank Construction, We Connect, La Porte County Family YMCA, R2 Strategies, La Porte County Association of Realtors and Wilson’s Barber Shop.