Citing the need to seek more innovative business solutions and more collaboration in a new economy being reshaped by the coronavirus, two of the state's largest business groups announced they are joining forces.
The Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses in the 11-county metro area, and the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce, representing businesses in the West Metro area, have started consolidation work and anticipate it will take 30 to 60 days to complete.
The Minneapolis Chamber has about 1,500 members, and Twin West approximately 600. The combined organization will be on par with the largest chamber of commerce in the state.
According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal's latest chamber rankings, the St. Paul-based Minnesota Chamber ranked first with 2,300 members as of April 2019. The Minneapolis Regional Chamber ranked second, and St. Louis Park-based TwinWest ranked eighth.
Jonathan Weinhagen, current president and chief executive of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, will be president and CEO of the combined chamber while TwinWest's president Shannon Full will become executive vice president of the consolidated operation.
"The Minneapolis Regional Chamber and TwinWest Chamber deliver value in different ways, and combining our strengths and building on them is a win for the business community," Weinhagen said in a news release. "I have long admired Shannon's leadership of the TwinWest Chamber and look forward to what we can accomplish together with a strong, shared voice."
The boards of directors from each organization have approved the plans to consolidate. Both sides said merger discussions were underway before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic and that the current environment heightens the need for more innovative thinking and collaboration.
The two organizations have been collaborating already to deliver more resources to their members beginning with the onset of the pandemic, through the stay-in-place orders and are now sharing reopening strategies.
"We've already identified shared goals," Full said regarding plans for the consolidated chamber going forward.
Those goals include helping small businesses, strengthening the regional talent pool and advocating for pro-business programs.
Weinhagen's compensation for 2018 was $230,000, while Full earned $132,900.