The Shoals Chamber of Commerce spent nearly a year studying the pros and cons of merging its organization with the Shoals Economic Development Authority.
It's not a new concept in our community.
During the difficult economic times that the Shoals, state, country and world have endured during the past two decades, many locally have pointed fingers and blamed SEDA for all the economic ills of the area.
There have been repeated efforts to change leadership at SEDA and, in some cases, dismantle the organization. Those efforts forced people to pick a side, an unhealthy environment in the competitive industrial recruiting world.
Those efforts also created suspicion and frustration among some SEDA board members and supporters of the organization. When a chamber group got together several years ago for an industrial recruiting trip to California, the heat was turned up on the already fragile relationship. Perhaps things would have been different had the trip produced tangible results. Instead, it was viewed as a collective slap in the face to SEDA board members.
The same reaction would have resulted had SEDA taken on the chamber's mission.
Ironically, it seems that every time another effort is made to alter SEDA, the area receives good news on the industrial recruiting front — SCA Tissue, Walgreens call center, North American Lighting and Navistar are examples. SEDA cannot take full credit for those and other projects, but it's also clear the projects wouldn't have happened without the agency.
The latest merger study also is a chamber initiative. It's called Vision 2020. The study is a better planned and a more sensible approach. It also eliminates the lynch-mob mentality and takes a look into future possibilities.
There are trends nationally of chambers merging with the economic development arms of the community. There have been successes and failures.
Maybe it will make sense in the Shoals at some point. Given the personalities and relationships involved today, perhaps this is not the time.
Frankly, there are several people I've spoken to who look at SEDA's recent successes and say "why try to fix something that's not broken? Leave them alone; they're creating jobs, bringing in quality companies — everything we want them to do."
As this issue continues to be debated, the personalities and egos have to be left at the front door. If merging the two organizations is truly best for the community and the case can be sold to our community, then let's do it. If not, there has to be other ways for the two to co-exist and perform their distinctly different missions.
Mike Goens can be reached at mike.goens@TimesDaily.com.