Keene chamber

The Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce, seen here on Central Square, on Tuesday

announced plans to merge with the Greater Peterborough chamber.

Two Monadnock Region chambers of commerce have announced their plans for a merger they say will likely be finalized early next year.

The Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce announced in a news release Tuesday that the proposed integration with the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is underway.

The boards of both chambers voted earlier this year to explore the proposal, which would create a regional network of nearly 700 member organizations, according to the news release.

The Keene and Peterborough chambers informed their members of the plans in identical emails Tuesday, explaining that the process will likely be completed in the next month before being made official in early 2021.

In their message, the chambers attributed the merger to financial difficulties plaguing many small chambers of commerce in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Karen Hatcher, a Peterborough chamber board member who was recently elected to the Keene chamber board, said Tuesday the financial struggles have been exclusive to the Peterborough chamber and that the Keene chamber seems to be in a good financial state.

The chambers told their members that the integration is aimed at alleviating the lack of resources, which caused the Peterborough chamber to remove its two paid positions last year and transition to being a completely volunteer-run agency.

“In short, we are confident that, moving forward as one Chamber, the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts,” the chambers told their members. “The financial condition of the newly combined entity projects to be good — enough to maintain sufficient staff, and some robust programming (pandemic guidelines permitting) for years to come.”

The Sentinel is a member of the Keene chamber.

Similar unions have already taken place in New Hampshire, including a February merger between the Souhegan Valley and Merrimack chambers of commerce, as well as the creation of the Upper Valley Business Alliance in November 2019 from the former Lebanon Area and Hanover Area chambers.

Tom Minkler, president of Clark-Mortenson Insurance in Keene and chairman of the Keene chamber’s board of directors, said in the news release Tuesday that the local chambers have several shared members, and the business community will benefit from their integration through economies of scale.

“The two Chambers have collaborated on a number of events together in recent years, so this is really a natural next step,” he said.

Various details of the merger have yet to be finalized, including what the new organization will be called, according to the news release. But the proposed integration took a step forward with the October elections of Hatcher and Patty Blake, both members of the Peterborough chamber’s board of directors, to the Keene chamber’s board, it said.

Blake, a vice president for People’s United Bank, will chair the new chamber’s board of directors beginning in October 2021, the Keene chamber told its members Tuesday.

Hatcher, who also serves as Peterborough’s community and economic development coordinator, explained that the combined entity will be called the Greater Keene and Peterborough Chamber of Commerce until a permanent name is decided on. She added that it will operate out of both chambers’ respective facilities.

“By putting the two together ... it makes the voice of our region stronger in Concord,” Hatcher said.

Phil Suter, president and CEO of the Keene chamber, will have the same role in the new organization, according to the news release.

“Much of what we do has a regional flavor to it,” Suter said in a prepared statement. “We have a lot of work to do, but we have great volunteer leadership, and I’m confident we’ll gain efficiencies with this new business model, without losing the local flavor we value so much in each of our communities.” Suter could not be reached for additional comment.

The Keene chamber is asking its members to share input on the new organization, including its business hours, possible programming and broader economic effects on the Monadnock Region.

Caleb Symons can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420, or csymons@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @CalebSymonsKS.