May 8, 2023: The Altoona Blair County Development (ABCD) Corporation and the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Boards of Directors have announced the two organizations are initiating formal merger discussions. “This is an exciting and impactful opportunity,” said Ron McConnell, ABCD Board Chair. “Today’s business of economic development increasingly involves all aspects of a community, its businesses, its people, and how we experience the place we live. As that change occurs, we need to adapt to meet the next generation’s needs and demands,” McConnell added.
The merger move represents a larger national trend of chambers and economic development organizations coming together not only to provide a single point of contact for business services, but also to stand behind a single marketing and communication platform.
“While the Chamber and ABCD have worked closely over the decades and in co-located offices, a formal operational merger will take that solid coordination to the next level,” said Clark Stapelfeld, Chamber Board Chair. “It will bring a higher degree of services, efficiencies, continuity, and communication strategies for both the Chamber members and people we need to attract to our community,” Stapelfeld added.
“The benefits of this move are significant,” said Stephen McKnight, ABCD President and CEO. “Combining what ABCD does with the Chamber’s educational services, networking, and business advocacy will no doubt result in a more coordinated and purposeful continuum of business support, from startup to expansion and beyond. All of us are in the people attraction business, and this will help us do that, only better,” McKnight added.
ABCD Corporation was formed in 1996 through a merger between Altoona Enterprises, the Greater Altoona Economic Development Corporation, and the marketing division of the Chamber. Since then, ABCD has developed 8 business parks and managed more the $700 million in new investment across Blair County. During that time the Chamber’s membership has grown to more than 1,000 members, greatly expanding its committees, events, and services. The Chamber is in its strongest financial and operational position.
“It is the right time for this to happen,” said Joe Hurd, Chamber President. “Our Chamber membership has grown significantly in the past decades and our services and programs are highly valued by our members. It is my priority that we not only maintain that but amplify it for our next generation business leaders and members,” Hurd added.
A merger exploratory committee consisting of ABCD and Chamber Board leadership has been established to help guide the discussions, which are expected to continue for the next several months. Those activities will include staff level workshops, governance planning, operational evaluations, program reviews and various strategic planning coordination meetings. It is expected that the merger will be completed by the end of 2023.