Naughton leading effort to merge Chamber, EDC

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Earlier this year the boards of directors from the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. began meeting to talk about merging.

When they found that a merger would be beneficial to both organizations, they created a “unification committee” to draft a plan for what the new organization would look like, how it would function and who would lead it.

The committee is comprised of board members of both organizations.

U.S. Bank Regional President Tom Naughton was chosen as chairman of the committee, which has been given a deadline of Nov. 30 to submit a plan.

Naughton’s has a strong presence in the business community and has served on numerous business and nonprofit boards.

He took some time this week to talk to the Business Journal about the unification committee.

Why do you think you were chosen to lead the unification committee? Why did you accept the job?

In answer to the second question, people tell me I have a difficult time saying no. That’s particularly true when it’s an issue or cause that helps move our community forward. The Unification Committee was created by the respective board of directors of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. with a goal to build a plan to unite the two organizations and submit it to the respective boards for review and input by Nov. 30. Our members consist of five directors from the Chamber board; Bill Hodgkins, Mike Jorgensen, Sherri Newell, Toby Gannett and Tom Neppl; five directors from the EDC board, Doug Quimby, Dan Malinaric, Scott Blackmun, Debbie Chandler and Kevin O’Neil along with three at-large members; Gen. Gene Renuart, Pam Shockley-Zalabak and me. It was the feeling that the chair for the committee should come from one of the at-large positions. Having chaired the Chamber board in 2004 and also serving on the EDC board from 2005-08 along with our bank being a long time major investor of both organizations it was felt I brought a good perspective which would be valuable in the unification process.

What are the unification committee’s top objectives?

The unification committee’s top deliverables are to define the legal, financial and organizational structure, corporate governance and physical location of the new organization, subject to approval by the two boards. The committee will also select the initial board of directors to govern the new organization subject to ratification by the two existing boards, and establish a CEO Search Committee whose job it will be to conduct a national search for the chief executive officer of the united organization.

What have been the committee’s biggest challenges so far?

As you can imagine there is a large amount of work to be accomplished. The committee has had several meetings and has other sub-committees working on the core functions of the unified organization which include: economic development, community development, military support, public policy and governmental affairs, marketing and communications, membership and business services and local business. We are drawing in subject matter experts to assist in the process and encouraging feedback from the respective staffs, members and community stakeholders.

Why do you personally believe merging the chamber and EDC is a good idea? What are the biggest benefits you hope to see?

I believe that these two organizations have served the Pikes Peak Region very well over their history; The Chamber for 119 years and the EDC for 40 years. However, creating quality jobs in a global, knowledge-driven economy requires aligned strategies with a stronger partnership to achieve success. Together with our elected leadership in the community, a united organization I believe can be more effective in driving economic prosperity through the retention, creation and attraction of quality jobs and nurture conditions that create the most significant business opportunities for all citizens in the Pikes Peak region. Our community has much to offer and I hope to see that by uniting to build our economic future we can be a model for creating a place where people and businesses thrive positively impacting our quality of life in this unique natural environment.