Stronger as one: Chamber, Visit Little Falls look forward to merger

Stronger as one: Chamber, Visit Little Falls look forward to merger Main Photo

17 Jun 2023

News, Economic Development, Community, Business

Two of Little Falls’ key business organizations got formal support, June 5, from the City Council to move forward with a merger.

The idea of the Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Little Falls becoming one organization has been in the works for nearly a year. The vote by the Council not only provided support for the move, but it also pledged — once the merger is complete — the city will engage in negotiations with the new organization for use of its restaurant and lodging tax.

That funding currently goes to Visit Little Falls, as those dollars are required to be used to promote tourism.

The decision followed a presentation from Visit Little Falls Board of Directors President Cassie Larkin. She took the Council through the process of how the merger came to be, what happens next, how it will be structured and how the aforementioned tax dollars will be tracked and allocated.

“Mergers are more successful when both organizations are strong, and that is what we have here,” Larkin said. “It is not one taking over the other; it is not one saving the other. One is not crumbling to take over the other. This is two extremely strong organizations that only want to be better, and that’s what our ultimate goal is. We’re trying to make Little Falls a wonderful — even better place to work, play and live.”

Laying the groundwork

The idea to merge started to be kicked around in summer 2022. After meeting with representatives from Faribault — who recently completed a similar merger — they had some ideas for how it would work, as well as what challenges they might be up against.

When word came that the executive directors of both organizations would be stepping down in the latter half of 2022, they contracted with Fair Winds Consulting to help guide them through the process and get the exploration going in earnest.

The next step was what they called an “environmental scan.” That was when they began to engage community members and people on both organizations’ boards to see if there was an appetite for a merger. At the same point, discussions began about how a new organization would look and operate.

In April, task forces were formed for aspects such as communication, board makeup, bylaws, financing and more. Those ideas were eventually presented during a joint meeting of both boards.

“I can say 100%, across the board, all board members of both organizations were on board and agreed that this was the best foot forward,” Larkin said. “Then we created a new mission statement.”

This summer, they are working on finalizing the plans. Eventually, they will give notice of their plans to merge to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. After a 45-day waiting period, it will be submitted to the Secretary of State for approval. Once all of that is complete, the merger will be official.

Read the full article here.