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The Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce and Bismarck-Mandan Development Association have decided to join forces.

The two organizations have been discussing the potential of restructuring for about eight months. On May 18, they announced they will begin drafting bylaws and developing a budget for the joint organization.

All staff members from both organizations will remain employed within the new joint venture.

Once the details have been finalized, a vote to complete the restructuring will be held Jan. 1.

The BMDA has 240 investors and the chamber has about 1,300 members. About 200 of the BMDA investors are also chamber members.

The decision to merge was driven by a combination of factors:

• Both organizations have pursued more common missions, partnering on a number of initiatives, such as Renaissance Zones and infrastructure.

• Businesses that are members of both organizations are seeking potential efficiencies by joining the two.

• Staff changes at both organizations: At the time of talks, three staff members were leaving the chamber and there was a retirement at the BMDA.

"The question of whether or not to pursue a restructure of the BMDA and chamber is not a new one. What's different now is that so many different factors have come together to create an opportunity that we simply couldn't ignore," said Chamber Board Chairman Ron Day.

In making their decision, the two organizations met with chambers of commerce and economic development organizations in other states — Nebraska, Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin — that had undergone similar changes. From those conversations, leadership of both organizations decided it was possible for the economic development functions at the BMDA and advocacy functions of the chamber to coexist.

"We don't see anything falling by the wayside," President Brian Ritter said of the services provided by each organization.

And, in fact, with cost savings from the joining of the two organizations, they're hopeful they can hire an additional position that would focus solely on economic development, so other staffers could give more of their time to the organization's workforce development and talent attraction efforts.

The transition will be coming just in time for the legislative session. With Ritter at the head of both organizations, meetings already have taken place with local state legislators to voice legislative priorities.

Day said the main deciding factor in proceeding with the restructure was the opportunity to do more with the available resources, giving the business community a bigger, stronger voice.

"There is so much that is new to the area going on we have to react," he said, such as increasing infrastructure needs.

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Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or


Business Reporter