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Armstrong, StrongLand, Allegheny Valley chambers of commerce merging

Bill Shirley | For The Leader Times - Mary Bowlin, (left), from the Allegheny Valley Chamber of Commerce, Charmin Worthington of StrongLand Chamber, Frank Amato of StrongLand and steering committee spokesman for the new AKRCC and Lynda Pozzuto from the Armstrong Chamber gather during the local Chambers of Commerce, Armstrong, StrongLand and Allegheny Valley press conference on Tuesday June 18, 2013 at the Belmont Complex in East Franklin.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Bill Shirley  |  For The Leader Times</em></div>Mary Bowlin, (left), from the Allegheny Valley Chamber of Commerce, Charmin Worthington of StrongLand Chamber, Frank Amato of StrongLand and steering committee spokesman for the new AKRCC and Lynda Pozzuto from the Armstrong Chamber gather during the local Chambers of Commerce, Armstrong, StrongLand and Allegheny Valley press conference on Tuesday June 18, 2013 at the Belmont Complex in East Franklin.
Bill Shirley | For The Leader Times - Mary Bowlin, (left), from the Allegheny Valley Chamber of Commerce, Charmin Worthington of StrongLand Chamber, Frank Amato of StrongLand and steering committee spokesman for the new AKRCC and Lynda Pozzuto from the Armstrong Chamber gather during the local Chambers of Commerce, Armstrong, StrongLand and Allegheny Valley press conference on Tuesday June 18, 2013 at the Belmont Complex in East Franklin.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Bill Shirley  |  For The Leader Times</em></div>Mary Bowlin, (left), from the Allegheny Valley Chamber of Commerce, Charmin Worthington of StrongLand Chamber, Frank Amato of StrongLand and steering committee spokesman for the new AKRCC and Lynda Pozzuto from the Armstrong Chamber gather during the local Chambers of Commerce, Armstrong, StrongLand and Allegheny Valley press conference on Tuesday June 18, 2013 at the Belmont Complex in East Franklin.

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By Tim Karan
Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 1:56 a.m.
 

The Armstrong, StrongLand and Allegheny Valley chambers of commerce announced Tuesday that the three are merging into a vast regional chamber of commerce.

Announced Tuesday evening at the Belmont Complex in East Franklin, the tentatively titled Allegheny Kiski Regional Chamber of Commerce, or AKRCC, would include about 770 businesses throughout 70 municipalities the northeast corner of Allegheny County, northern Westmoreland County, and in all of Armstrong County.

Frank Amato II, board member of the StrongLand Chamber and spokesman for the steering committee of the merging groups, said poor economic conditions for businesses throughout the region necessitated the merger.

He said arrangements have been in the works for about a year.

“When we began this process, all three chambers had read the writing on the wall,” Amato said. “The writing told the story of declining membership, diminishing revenues and eventual extinction if the chambers continued on their current paths.

“We're being forced to reinvent ourselves, just as businesses do every day.”

Speaking before about 50 regional business owners and officials, including Armstrong County Commissioners Bob Bower and Dave Battaglia, Amato was optimistic that the decision will provide many benefits.

“This merger will provide us with financial savings in the areas of administration, finance and record-keeping,” he said. “It will also allow the chambers to eliminate redundant services and provide our members with renewed focus on member benefits.”

He said the merger “will provide our members and communities with a stronger, more strategic voice to legislators, developers, planners and consumers.”

Noting that the merger is still in its infancy, Amato announced 14 regional board members representing each of the chambers who will develop a strategic plan that will determine how the new chamber will operate, staff duties and a central location.

Armstrong County board members include Dawn Kocher-Taylor, Herman Krummert, Fred Orozco and Alex Stockmal.

Lynda Pozzuto, president of the Armstrong County Chamber of Commerce, said a larger, merged chamber will be extremely beneficial to small and large businesses throughout the county.

“I'm really excited about it,” she said. “The Armstrong Chamber of Commerce had 230 members, and now we're going to have over 700.

“We were doing fine and we could've just kept maintaining for many years to come, but that's not our goal. Our goal is to do the most we possibly can for our members, and this will give us the ability to do that.”

“I'm pumped,” said Curt Marino, chairman of the Allegheny Valley Chamber of Commerce. “It's a great opportunity to pool our strengths for the greater good of our membership. We're now in a position to create and enhance programs we already have in place and create new programs to continue to offer more benefits to our members.”

Amato said he's hopeful the new chamber will draw more members.

“We extend our welcome to other chambers and invite businesses that aren't currently members of any chamber to join this regional chamber,” he said. “Ask any member of the steering committee or this regional board, and they will tell you without reservation that this is the right choice for our chambers. Regionalization will keep us operating for many years to come.”

The merged chamber of commerce is aiming to begin operations by Jan. 1.

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or tkaran@tribweb.com.

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