Leaders in the business community of Whitehall Township see untapped potential in their community, what they describe as the heart of the Greater Lehigh Valley.
To fulfill that potential, members of the Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce have officially merged with the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.
It’s a move that could boost business in Whitehall and draw more interest in companies looking to locate there, as officials discussed some of the benefits they’ve already seen, including a larger voice in the community throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley.
In 2016, the Whitehall Area Chamber entered into a multiyear partnership agreement with the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber and soon saw benefits with strong attendance and sponsorships at mixers and events.
So, Whitehall decided to enter into a full merger arrangement.
On July 12, the Whitehall Area Chamber officially voted on the merger, and leaders say they are excited about the benefits it will bring.
“Throughout the year, we’ve seen the benefits of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber with our members, the involvement, sponsorships, exposure across the Lehigh Valley,” said Jessica O’Donnell, senior vice president of central affiliate chambers for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. “We are much larger than the Whitehall Area. It’s kind of that missing piece; now it’s been filled.”
Though the Whitehall Chamber is now part of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber, it is still autonomous and makes its decisions locally, and has the full support of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber, she said.
“It became very apparent to our board members that this would be a direction that would benefit us,” said Larry Kacyon, chairman of the Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce.
The merger is effective retroactively as of July 1, and part of the reason for expediting the merger was to kick off the new fiscal year, Kacyon said.
The Whitehall Chamber expanded the number of seats on its board from 18 to 25, allowing for more members to have a voice in the decisions and direction of the chamber. More members are also showing interest in leadership roles, Kacyon said.
Most recently, Whitehall Mayor Ed Hozza joined the board as an appointee and has a say in the direction of the chamber. Businesses also like hearing first-hand from the mayor about the new businesses coming to the Whitehall area, Kacyon said.
“We’ve taken that to a more integrated level,” said Dan Quay, vice chairman of the Whitehall Area Chamber. “He [Hozza] is now at board meetings and able to provide input. The township gets its voice heard.”
For Whitehall, the merger brings a broader reach that extends into sponsorships, networking events and representation.
“It’s enabled us to reach out to the community at large,” Kacyon said. “We are now able to support the goals and give back to the community in which we live, work, play and shop.”
Being under the umbrella of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber allows for autonomy and separate leadership but also the ability for the Whitehall Area Chamber to pull in sponsors from outside the area for events, O’Donnell said. It still markets itself and operates as the Whitehall Area Chamber, she added.
There are businesses outside of Whitehall that want to do business in the township, and this allows for that expanded reach, she said.
As an example, at a recent joint mixer with the Northampton Area Chamber of Commerce, the Whitehall Area Chamber attracted more than 100 people to the event.
“What I think is unique about Whitehall, we are really the central location for the Lehigh Valley,” O’Donnell said. “The ability to eat, play and shop in our area. We have everything here.”
Quay said the Whitehall Area Chamber was looking for a way to create value for its members and thinks it has done that with the merger.
“The breadth that our members now have, it’s across the Greater Lehigh Valley,” Quay said.