Thursday, January 3, 2008

Revisiting the chamber-EDC split

For those with long roots in the Springs business community, talk of a possible merger between the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corp. stirs memories of the split between the two 16 years ago.

Ronald Lehmann helped spearhead the split of the EDC — then the Economic Development Council — from the chamber. The chamber’s board of directors ousted him as chairman of the chamber’s EDC division in August 1991 after he proposed the group become a separate organization. At the time, the split was portrayed as coming after years of often-bitter infighting over how much control the chamber should have over the EDC. But Lehmann says that wasn’t really the issue.

The issue, he said, was whether being part of the chamber made sense for the EDC. Did it enhance or detract from its mission? For Lehmann, the answer was clear.

“The chamber at that time was and I think still is a very process-oriented organization,” he said. The EDC, he said, is more goal-oriented, with a need to be nimble and responsive to a changing business environment.

“It isn’t really correct to think we had a real schism. We had a different mission and purpose and business plan than the chamber, and I think frankly the EDC still does.”

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