The Pendleton Downtown Association and the Pendleton Chamber of Commerce are moving in together, but they’re going to keep some of their assets separate.
The two nonprofits announced last week that they signed a memorandum of agreement that establishes a formal alliance between the two entities, including co-locating the association’s office at the chamber’s 501 S. Main St. visitor information center.
“We’re juggling a lot of balls, but it will be fun,” association President Fred Bradbury said.
Chamber Executive Director Janet Duffy, who was hired in July, said she was surprised that the two parties already didn’t have a working coalition when she arrived in town.
Bradbury said both sides have been in discussions about the arrangement for the past few months and the move has the endorsement of both Oregon Main Street and the city of Pendleton.
Under the agreement, both organizations will remain separate entities with their own executive directors and boards. But given the association and chamber’s shared goal to “recruit” and “retain” small businesses in the downtown core, the pair decided it was better to join forces than continue to overlap in some of their services.
Once solely an association event, the chamber and downtown association will collaborate on the Pendleton Holiday Stroll, an annual Christmas event on Main Street this Friday. Duffy said the chamber will be integrating its own annual Christmas social at the Pendleton Center for the Arts into this year’s festivities.
More longterm, Bradbury said both organizations will work together on economic development projects, like creating a downtown plan or restoring downtown second story spaces.
Although the association and chamber will now be housed under one roof, Bradbury and Duffy are adamant that the two organizations will remain independent entities.
The arrangement has practical applications: the association can apply to certain grants that as a 501c(3) nonprofit that the chamber, a nonprofit trade organization, cannot.
But Duffy and Bradbury said that each organization still wants to carry out the parts of their respective missions that don’t overlap.
Although the agreement was made with both boards support, the agreement includes language that states that both boards will have to “respectfully disagree” should they ever come into conflict.
Duffy said many of the details of the partnership are still being worked out, a process that will be aided when the association hires a new executive director.
The association has been without a director since September, when former Executive Director Molly Turner resigned to take a job with Blue Mountain Community College.
Bradbury said a new executive director will start on Wednesday, but he declined to identify him or provide more details until the new hire got settled in.
A closer relationship between the association and the chamber isn’t a new idea.
When the association sought regular funding from the city, councilors suggested the two organizations pair up because both were being financially supported by the city.
The association currently receives $55,000 per year from the city, although that number will eventually fall to $25,000.
In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the city gave the chamber $261,255 to run the visitor’s center and operate Travel Pendleton, the chamber’s tourism promotion arm.
While the association are merging some responsibilities with the chamber, Bradbury said he’s not worried that the city will pull funding from the association.
Contact Antonio Sierra at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0836.