IPSWICH — The Ipswich Chamber of Commerce looks set to merge with the larger Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce (CACC).
“We feel that we have found an exciting way to add additional support (WAY more additional support) to you that will be consistent, professional, and have so many more opportunities for you,” the Ipswich Chamber said in an email (in full below) to members on Friday morning.
“We’re not giving up. We’re still going to represent the best interest of the town,” said Ray Morley, Ipswich Chamber president. “It’s going to bring more people here,” he predicted.
If the merger proceeds after the due-diligence phase currently underway, the volunteer-run Ipswich Chamber will join a professionally staffed organization that already serves the four communities on Cape Ann — Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, and Manchester. Should plans proceed, the merger would take place by mid-July.
“There’s been a very small but active group of people in Ipswich for many years who have kept the Chamber going, and we’ve been very happy to do it,” secretary Paula Bishop said on the phone after the email was sent out.
But the pandemic has uncovered a number of problems with a volunteer-run group, she said. “We can’t provide what we think is the very best for the Ipswich community, compared to a larger organization,” Bishop said.
“It’s going to be a struggle for some businesses to come out of this,” she added.
Established in 1922, the CACC has eight staff members, according to its website. They include a promotions manager and an events director. It also has visitor centers in Gloucester and Rockport.
Ipswich has no staff.
“It’s not a good situation for a town to be in right now. We’re not small,” Bishop said. Because Ipswich is volunteer-run, it can take a couple of days for the Chamber to answer replies from members or the public, she added.
Annual membership fees for the Ipswich chamber are $100. CACC has different membership levels, its website says. Those are $100 for individuals, $180 for non-profits and entrepreneurs, and $360 for established businesses.
In addition to visitor services, Cape Ann runs workshops and business development courses for members. The CACC has two websites and publishes a large Cape Ann Guide every year. Last year’s book was 144 pages long. The Ipswich Chamber also hopes there will be more networking and business development opportunities.
“Like Ipswich, Cape Ann has a robust business community, a rich history, and is a very well-known destination for visitors,” the Ipswich email said.
“It will bring in tourists that spend more here, don’t raise taxes, and then they leave,” Morley said.
“Geographically, both service areas are natural extensions of each other, and Ipswich’s businesses and destinations are on the corridor to and from I-95, strategically located as a major gateway to Cape Ann,” it added.
“Of significant importance,” the Ipswich email said, “The Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce will change its name to The Greater Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce to reflect Ipswich’s role and participation!”
Bishop said the Ipswich Chamber looked at several possibilities before approaching Cape Ann. One key reason for joining the CACC is that it has experience serving different communities, she said.
“What we bring to the table are some great, great businesses in Ipswich,” Bishop said.
Ipswich approached Cape Ann about a merger in early February.
The CACC then formed a special project team and met with Ipswich’s executive committee, followed by a meeting with Ipswich’s full board of directors, to explore this opportunity, the email said.
The CACC also held a meeting with their own full board. “All of these discussions have been positive,” the Ipswich email said.
A retired banker, Bishop has long experience with the Ipswich Chamber. “It’s not without a little bit of sadness we’re doing this. But, as with everything, there comes an end,” she said.
Source: Ipswich Local News