MANSFIELD – Members of the Richland Community Development Group voted unanimously Monday to terminate its membership and become affiliated with the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce.
“As a founding member of RCDG, we had always hoped that this partnership would happen at some point," said David Eichinger, RCDG Board Chairman "This affiliation will take advantage of the strengths of both organizations to give us a greater opportunity to push our community forward.”
Following the vote, Eichinger signed paperwork to formally make RCDG affiliated with the Chamber. But informally, the organizations have already been working together in projects and location.
All three of RCDG’s directors have offices at the Chamber of Commerce, 55 N Mulberry St.
Karen Seman, work force development director, Barrett Thomas, economic development director, and Roberta Perry, community development director will keep their positions, but will now work under the direction of Jodie Perry, the Chamber president.
“I’m excited and honored to have this opportunity to lead the next phase of economic development for our community," Perry said. "We have an excellent staff and volunteer leadership team and I look forward to further cultivating the potential of this amazing community."
The only concern that was raised at the meeting was whether or not this additional role would overflow her already full plate.
Jon Young, longtime Rotary Club member showed up to ask about this. Perry will be the club’s next president.
“She’s so good and does such a good job and is so well-liked, there are some members of the club that have concern about spreading her so thin,” Young said.
This is a topic that’s come up in discussions prior to Monday’s meeting.
“They (The Chamber board members) have assured us that Jodie is an efficient and productive leader,” Eichinger said.
Perry said that some of her responsibilities will be handed off to other Chamber leaders as the staff becomes more experienced. Over the past year, she’s been working with a young group and is confident they are now ready to handle a heavier workload.
Young later clarified that he is a "big supporter" of Perry.
Formed in 2009, the RCDG was created to fill a void in the economic development area. It's mission statement was: “A group of local citizens dedicated to the enhancement, development and future of our community’s quality of life for the citizens of Richland County.”
Since the beginning, collaboration with the Chamber was the future that founding members like Eichinger saw.
“It just felt natural that something like RCDG or economic development should really be housed in the Chamber of Commerce, and we just didn’t feel like we had a good way to do that productively or efficiently at that time,” he said.
Brian Schmidt, Chamber board chairman, also mentioned timing in a press release.
“We are excited to maximize the potential of both organizations. The timing was right to make this move which had been discussed a number of times over the years. We feel that this will give businesses a greater opportunity to be involved in the future development of our area.”
The Chamber will officially become the sole member of RCDG on Saturday, July 1, meaning the Chamber’s executive board will have the final say in all RCDG-related decisions.
But the organizations will remain as separate entities. The RCDG board will stay intact and provide guidance to Perry and Chamber board, and both organizations will have representation on the other board.
Current membership benefits and activities from each organization will remain for county businesses and communities.
The affiliation was made possible by the Richland County Foundation, which provided the financial support to hire a non-profit lawyer.
“This only strengthens our ability to achieve our mission,” Eichinger said.