Kenai’s Chamber of Commerce, Visitors Bureau merging

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 molly.dischner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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