West Ottawa Board of Trade, Ottawa Chamber of Commerce set to merge without Orléans

Ian Sherman, Jim Watson, Mischa Kaplan
From left, Ottawa Chamber of Commerce chairperson Ian Sherman with Mayor Jim Watson and West Ottawa Board of Trade chairperson Mischa Kaplan at city hall on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of the City of Ottawa).

Two local chambers of commerce have agreed to merge their operations, subject to the approval of their members.

At a Mayor's Breakfast series event on Tuesday morning, the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and West Ottawa Board of Trade signed a memorandum of understanding, endorsed by Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, to consolidate operations into “one strong Chamber.”

The Orleans Chamber of Commerce has not signed the MOU, but the document allows for the east-end business organization to join its two counterparts before Aug. 22.

The new organization, dubbed the Ottawa Board of Trade, would see WOBOT’s membership, funds and operations largely folded into the Ottawa chamber’s. The combined entity would retain the OCC’s membership structure and primary headquarters, and a transitional 18-member board would feature slightly more representation from the larger Ottawa chamber.

The proposal will now go to the WOBOT and OCC memberships for a vote on June 5 and 6, respectively. If those votes pass, the organizations anticipate a formal merger as of July 1.

Absent from the deal is the Orléans chamber, which was originally part of year-long talks for a trilateral merger. The east Ottawa organization’s board of directors unanimously rejected a joint task force’s proposal for a singular organization to represent Ottawa’s businesses, citing concerns about low representation on the combined board and wanting to retain some financial independence.

The Orléans chamber attempted to put the question to its membership earlier this month, but postponed the vote until after a new board is elected in June.

The WOBOT-OCC agreement contains a provision to allow Orléans to join the merger until Aug. 22. Ottawa chamber president and CEO Ian Faris told OBJ earlier this month that the two consolidated chambers would “welcome (the Orléans chamber) with open arms,” but added that the new Ottawa Board of Trade would not wait for the east-end organization before it moves forward with a merger.

Open house dates

Want to learn more about the West Ottawa Board of Trade-Ottawa Chamber of Commerce merger? The OCC is holding several open sessions at its office at 328 Somerset St. W.:

  • May 25, 10:30 a.m.
  • May 28, 3:00 p.m.
  • May 29, 8:00 a.m.
  • May 31, 10:30 a.m.
  • June 1, 1:30 p.m.
  • June 4, 5:00 p.m.