Chamber board votes for merger

A plan to merge the Tahoe Douglas and South Lake Tahoe chambers of commerce will be up for possible final approval on Tuesday.

The South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce took the first leap toward a partnership with its Nevada counterpart by voting to merge Thursday.

The Tahoe Douglas Chamber of Commerce will decide on moving into the partnership on Tuesday. Its board meets 8 a.m. Tuesday at Inn by the Lake.

A concept in the works for four months came to a head with little fanfare. Some board members who shared concerns over the details agreed to work them out in the coming months. In the end, most agreed the merger in principle is the preferred alternative to moving the business community forward.

"As a community, we are suffering economically and socially," South Lake President Mike Bradford said, setting the stage for a critical decision he characterized as a worthy cause.

If the merger goes forward, a task force will handle the transition.

The merger would involve moving the primary operation into a structure to be built at Prim's Edgewood Village and sharing the space with Douglas County and the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority at the busy intersection of Kingsbury Grade and Highway 50. That was a sticking point to some members in the California chamber. But the concept also calls for the chamber's offices on Lake Tahoe Boulevard to not be abandoned. In theory, the building would house a visitors center to work alongside the one in Nevada.

The visitors authority would aim to run efforts to advance lake tourism, while the chamber would focus on business services and government relations. About a handful of people are expected to lose their jobs and one executive director would run the operation. The visitors authority plans to sell its building on Ski Run Boulevard.

With less presence perceived in California, board member and former South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Tom Davis expressed a little apprehension over sharing the estimated $286,000 lease with other parties. He recommended the visitors authority "sign the lease" alone. He also didn't like having a government relations post filled after two years.

Life at the South Shore means the juggling of governments in two states, two counties, a city and a basinwide regulatory agency.

He suggested amending the proposal before it was voted on, but that idea was met with criticism. He stepped aside in the interest of the greater wishes of the group.

"No matter what happens, I think good will come out of it," Davis said.

A membership survey of both chambers indicated 67 percent said they'd "strongly support" the concept. If the merger happens, 82 percent said they'd "continue to be a member."

The South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce consists of 950 members and the Tahoe Douglas Chamber is comprised of 600. About 350 belong to both chambers.


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