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MADC, chamber contemplate merger talks

File Photo The Minot Area Chamber of Commerce and Minot Area Development Corp. share a building and are deciding whether they should look at merging operationally as well.

Merger talks could be on the horizon for Minot Area Development Corp. and the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber President John MacMartin has served as the temporary executive lead for MADC since Stephanie Hoffart left the MADC presidency in early November. MADC is not seeking a new president currently because of the investigation into combining with the chamber.

MacMartin said the chamber board voted Tuesday to officially pursue a potential merger. MADC’s board will meet Monday to discuss whether to take that action.

“There could be some people – some of our members – that question why. We have been kind of going ‘why not?'” MacMartin said. “The questions before both boards are ‘do we believe that this makes sense and do we want to spend some actual time going through and looking at the organizational structure and how it would have to change?'” On Jan. 30, the two boards heard from Bismarck/Mandan Chamber EDC President Brian Ritter and former board member John Mongeon about the merger that combined the chamber and economic development group there in January 2019. Talks in Bismarck and Mandan had begun in the fall of 2017 after the EDC president had retired.

Bismarck-Mandan looked at different models for organizational structure in its merger, and that is something Minot would have to look at as well, MacMartin said. However, there are similarities that might encourage Minot to follow Bismarck-Mandan’s example.

“They have a pretty good blueprint. It makes some sense,” MacMartin said.

He added both MADC and the chamber intend to keep their memberships and government partners in the loop if the merger process does move forward.

MADC has had closer government ties, receiving money from the City of Minot and Ward County for economic development. MADC received $328,500 from Minot’s city sales tax and $58,000 from Ward County in 2019.

MacMartin said the chamber for many years has received money from the state and city for base retention efforts.

Blending economic development with the business promotion work of the chamber would require accounting procedures that separate different functions so that government money for economic development is managed for that purpose. But it is a workable system, as shown by the Bismarck-Mandan organization, MacMartin said.

He said staffing levels likely would not change. Both organizations need to fill slots regardless of the merger, but a merger could influence those replacements. For instance, MacMartin noted, there likely would be a need to have an economic development director to coordinate that segment of a merged operation.

Currently, MADC has one full-time office person and a part-time employee who works in marketing and communication. The chamber has four employees, although the finance manager has been working remotely since moving from Minot.

MacMartin said he would anticipate, if merger talks go forward, that it would take the rest of 2020 to work out the details before a restructured organization could be in place next year. Some of those details relate to merging memberships and finances and writing new bylaws. A merger also would require an affirmative vote of the memberships.

In the meantime, MADC and the chamber are working together to ensure economic development continues. MacMartin said MADC board members are stepping up and taking a more active role, and the organization has become more selective about the trade shows it attends.

MacMartin said MADC continues to provide information to inquiring companies and conducts visits with existing primary sector businesses in the area to ensure retention and growth through potential expansion.

MADC might have been less visible in its activities recently, but there is much going on, MacMartin said. MADC has been actively engaged in discussing transportation issues with the state, in looking into development of its industrial park in east Minot and in getting the transloading facility fully operational again.

First Western Bank & Trust assumed control of the transloading facility in a foreclosure and, for now, has an operator providing limited services in container shipping, MacMartin said.

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