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Kenai’s Chamber of Commerce, Visitors Bureau merging

Posted: January 23, 2012 - 6:34pm  |  Updated: January 25, 2012 - 5:12pm

A merger between the Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Kenai Chamber of Commerce is under way.

Brendyn Shiflea, president of the new organization, said the new entity is the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center.

The former Kenai Chamber of Commerce is changing its name to represent both organizations. The Kenai Visitors Bureau has filed paperwork with the state of Alaska to legally dissolve. Once the dissolution is approved, its assets will be transferred to the new Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, Shiflea said.

The new organization will be responsible for fulfilling both organizations’ missions. Shiflea said new policies and bylaws are being drafted. But the core of their missions, he said, is similar: promoting Kenai. The organizations used to work together on a number of related events, like the Kenai River Marathon and Christmas Comes to Kenai, Shiflea said. Now they’ll be just one entity planning those things.

Many of the details are still being worked out.

The KCVB operates the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center on the Kenai Spur Highway under a contract from the city of Kenai. That facility is owned by Kenai. The city pays $125,000 for the visitors bureau to operate it, and also pays for most associated costs — electric bills, janitorial services, and other such expenses, according to Rick Koch, Kenai’s city manager. That contract runs through December 2013.

“We are requesting that the city assign that contract to the new entity,” Shiflea said.

The city received a letter requesting the transfer January 9. Kenai’s city council will likely discuss the contract at its Feb. 1 meeting.

Koch said that administration will probably recommend approving the transfer.

“The chamber has had a fair amount of involvement with the visitors center and the visitors bureau,” Koch said.

Council members made brief remarks about the merger at the Jan. 18 city council meeting.

Councilman Tim Navarre said he hoped the council could quickly approve the contract and foster the transition.

Councilman Ryan Marquis said he thought a decision in just two weeks might be a little premature, and that there was more to a merger than just a legal change.

Shiflea said the new Chamber and Visitors Center would operate the city-owned facility in accordance with the city’s priorities. The visitors center currently has a focus on local history, including subjects such as the commercial fishing industry, Kenaitze Indian Tribe, homesteaders and other regional issues. That wouldn’t change, Shiflea said.

Operating the KVCC won’t be the new organization’s only task. Shiflea said the organization will also work to continue arts programming, manage facility rentals, partner with other organizations on gaming in Old Town and conduct other activities that the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Chamber engaged in separately from one another.

Exact plans for staffing and building-use are undetermined.

Shiflea said the organizations have great employees that the new entity hopes to continue working with.

“We’re going to work to put the best people in the best spots,” he said.

The new board includes members from both of the old entities, Shiflea said.

The change has been in the works for about a year, with the nonprofits working with Foraker Group and attorneys to figure out the best option. The new plan is meant to increase financial stability and avoid duplicating efforts, Shiflea said.

Shiflea said the change isn’t unprecedented. Other communities have similar joint-organizations, and in Kenai, one organization filled both missions until the 1980s, he said.

“We’re excited,” Shiflea said. “This is going to be a good year for Kenai.”


Molly Dischner can be reached at

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Allen 01/25/12 - 05:22 pm
Hostile Takeover?

I heard this "merger" was a hostile takeover and all the employees were fired. I heard that the Kenai Mayor was behind this takeover. What's going on here?

The Kenai Chamber of Commerce is an oil & gas industry support group. So I don't see how this group is suddenly going to ramp up to provide the programs that the KCVB provided, with new employees.

The Chamber takes over KCVB and afterwards tells the City it wants to operate the Visitor's Center? Why wasn't there a transition plan in place so that our elected City Council members could decide what to do with full information?

The City of Kenai needs to re-bid the operation of the Visitor's Center. That way the Chamber will have to prove they can operate the Visitor's Center.

Bremar 01/25/12 - 10:02 pm

This merger has been in the works for quite some time, and was the result of a unanimous decision by BOTH Boards of Directors. There was nothing hostile about it.

This was two private non-profit organizations that formerly operated as one, separated into two for the right reasons in the 1980's, and have now come back together for the right reasons in 2012.

The two organizations have very similar missions- essentially to promote Kenai. The combined organization will be better able to represent Kenai, represent the respective members, and promote Kenai to visitors and businesses alike. Absolutely nobody has been fired, nor is there any intent to fire anyone. This is an exciting change- and one that will be great for the community, great for the members, and great for the employees of both organizations.

Allen, I would highly encourage you to contact the Board of the new organization, which is made up of members of the former Kenai Convention & Visitors Center and the former Kenai Chamber of Commerce.

corinnep 01/26/12 - 04:09 pm
Open It Up

I agree that the contract to operate the Kenai visitor center should be opened up to bid. There are other organizations that focus on tourism and visitors and would do a better job than the Kenai Chamber of Commerce, their staff (two people according to their web site) is not qualified to run the visitor's center.

This paper had an article recently that the Kenai Peninsula Tourism and Marketing Council (KPTMC) is looking for more stable funding, and it would seem like a good fit for the Kenai visitor center.

bigbadbob 01/28/12 - 07:38 pm
Hats off to Mr. Shiflea and

Hats off to Mr. Shiflea and his group. So nice to see a positive, Pro-active attitude in Kenai. Long over due- ney sayers like Allen need to get their facts straight. Only hostile thing in Kenai might be the hairdo often sported by a certain councilman. KPTMC? please....

RyanMarquis 01/28/12 - 08:17 pm
It Grows Fast

Hey, let's leave my hair out of it.

-Ryan Marquis

JOAT 01/28/12 - 08:53 pm
Way to go, Kenai

Good to see government doing some trimming for a change. The senseless expansion of the 90's is over. Time to tighten the belts.

Just don't stop there. What else can be consolidated, reduced, eliminated, or recycled?

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