The chamber of commerce for one of the metro-east's busiest business hubs plans to dissolve at the end of April.
Fairview Heights Chamber of Commerce President Mia Stroter said in a statement declining membership and the absence of an executive director brought about the difficult decision for the chamber's board.
"The board's decision was made after exploring many, many options," Stroter said, who has served as president for the past two years. "We just reached the point where as a volunteer board we could not continue to provide our members with the programming and services a chamber needs to offer."
The board and volunteers have worked "tirelessly" to run the chamber since its past executive director Scott Lea resigned two years ago, Stroter said.
Stroter could not be reached for comment beyond the released statement.
Fairview Heights Alderman Scott Greenwald said he attributes part of the chamber's dissolution to a lack of members from the city's Big Box retailers.
"It's sad they are dissolving," Greenwald said. "I think a big part of the problem is major corporation stores are not joining. They can't get a hold of the owner of Sears, JCPenny or Dillards. ... It's tough for a big business to be involved locally."
Greenwald owns Lincoln Place Pawn in Fairview Heights, but was not a member of the chamber. Greenwald said he did not join the chamber because Lincoln Place "was not the most desirable business within the city."
Greenwald said the Fairview Heights council previously gave the chamber $5,000 a year to encourage business growth. He hopes that money can now be directed toward the Southern Illinois Tourism Bureau to "fill in the gaps" of services lost when the chamber dissolves.
Neighboring chambers are hoping to help the Fairview Heights chamber stay afloat or help businesses find a new chamber home.
The Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce is looking at ways to help its Fairview Heights counterpart, according to John Lengerman, executive director of the Belleville chamber.
"The Belleville chamber is certainly interested in the success of all chambers," Lengerman said. "We're ready to have a conversation to investigate helping Fairview along."
Should the Fairview Heights chamber dissolve, its board members hope to transition some services to the city of Fairview Heights.
O'Fallon-Shiloh Chamber Executive Director Debbie Arell-Martinez said she was saddened to hear about the neighboring chamber's dissolution, and applauded the efforts of its board and volunteers for going "above and beyond to keep their chamber on track without a director for the past two years."
"The economy has been tough over the past few years and the chamber-world is no different than any other sector in the business community," Arell-Martinez said. "When a business has to cut costs, they often resort to cuts in the areas of training and professional organization membership.It's also difficult to run a chamber of Fairview Heights' size without an executive director."
While the Fairview Heights chamber's membership has declined, Arell-Martinez said the O'Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce has grown 27 percent in the past five years and 9 percent in 2012 alone.
Arell-Martinez said many of the chamber members were attracted to its ability to regularly network and promote their business with others.
"Nearly 30 percent of our total membership is located outside the O'Fallon-Shiloh communities," she said. "A fair number of that percentage is currently in Fairview Heights.We know the other businesses in Fairview Heights will be looking for ways to promote their businesses, whether through ribbon cuttings or networking events.We would like to extend an invitation to those businesses welcoming them into our chamber."
Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2501.