ACI Looks For Stronger Identity Clearer Role

June 5, 2002
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GRAND HAVEN — The Association of Commerce and Industry has embarked on a reorganization effort that’s intended to build a stronger identity and broader awareness of its role in the community and to streamline operations to better serve members.

ACI Executive Director Joy Gaasch hopes to have the planned reorganization implemented by mid-September, complete with a new name for the organization that will better reflect its mission.

The ACI serves as the umbrella organization for the Grand Haven Chamber of Commerce, Grand Haven-Spring Lake Visitors Bureau, and an economic development office. The restructuring process comes on the heels of a membership survey conducted earlier this year that the ACI will use as a “starting point” to revamp staff duties and its organizational structure, Gaasch said.

The goal is to put more emphasis on member services, she said. As the business world evolves, organizations like the chamber can no longer expect businesses to invest in a membership simply because “it’s the right thing to do,” Gaasch said.

“We are a business. We have to work like a business and we have to act more like a business,” Gaasch said. “There are a lot of things in a community people can invest in, and people have an expectation they are going to get a return on their investment.”

The ACI was formed in 1982 through the merger of the former Committee for Economic Development and the chamber of commerce. The organization expanded in 1989 when it absorbed the former Northwest Ottawa Economic and Industrial Development Corporation.

With 620 members, the ACI has an annual budget of about $650,000. The visitors’ bureau has a separate budget of about $150,000 and will remain a separate entity within the ACI’s structure in order to continue receiving revenues from a hotel and motel room tax.

The results of the membership survey will provide the basis for the restructuring, Gaasch said. The 54 survey responses received ranked business retention, economic development, education, growth management and land use, and health care as the top issues affecting the local economy and quality of life.

The reorganization will likely result in a committee structure where representatives from member companies work to address various issues affecting the ACI and the community.

Perhaps the biggest question in drafting reorganization plans is deciding on a new name. The Association of Commerce and Industry is a name that often causes confusion about the organization’s role, Gaasch said.

Since the ACI operates largely as a chamber of commerce, Gaasch expects that the word “chamber” will became part of the new title because it is a universally recognizable name for organizations that serve as the business advocate in a community and handle economic development.

“The challenge is what we call ourselves’” Gaasch said. “From a customer standpoint, we want all customers to know who we are.

“It is important that we provide them the clearest understanding of who we are and what we are as an organization,” she said.

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