City of Seal Beach and Chamber: a partnership

Chamber CEO Esther Kenyon

This year, for the first time, the city of Seal Beach is a fully paid member member of the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce, according to City Manager Jill Ingram. The Chamber is 61 years old. During that time, the relationship between the city and the Chamber has ebbed and flowed.

At present, that relationship is better than it has been in years.

The assistant city manager sits on the board. However, he doesn’t get to vote.) After the Oct. 12, 2011 Salon Meritage shootings, the Chamber met with city officials almost daily.

The city and the Chamber partnered with Watson & Associates to form the Seal Beach Victims’ Trust Fund. (The fund has now disbanded.)

“In addition to our mutual interest in supporting our business community, at the end of the day, it all boils down to people,” Ingram said. “Taking the time to develop a personal relationship between the city and the Chamber, nurturing that relationship, and finding common ground. That common ground is that we both have a passion for Seal Beach and want more than anything to make a difference so that our community will continue to thrive.”

Erik Dreyer-Goldman, former Chamber president and owner of Ask Erik computer services, credited another former Chamber president, activist/business consultant Seth Eaker, with changing the relationship between the city and the business group.

“The relationship started changing several years ago, when Seth became president, because Seth started a dialogue,”  Dreyer-Goldman said.

He said Eaker met with then-City Manager David Carmany at least once a week.

(Eaker was out of the country and was unavailable when this story went to press.)

Dreyer-Goldman said he also met regularly with the city manager. He said it was important for the city and the Chamber to work together because it helps businesses get started faster when they come to Seal Beach.

He said all local organizations are working more closely together: the Chamber, the Lions Club and Run Seal Beach, as well as the city government.

“We’re also noticing a lot more people shopping locally,”  Dreyer-Goldman said.

Ingram also said she meets regularly with Nat Ferguson, the Chamber’s current president, and CEO Esther Kenyon.

“In my opinion, it is a symbiotic relationship,” Ingram said.

As examples of the symbiotic relationship, she said the Chamber and the city split the cost of the city Christmas tree.

The city pays for the Chamber’s summer concert series. 2012 will see the second year of the combined Chamber-city health fair.

She said the Chamber is represented at all City Council meetings.

The city, in turn, is represented on the Chamber board by Sean Crumby, assistant city manager and director of Public Works.

Dreyer-Goldman said Crumby was appointed to the board during his term.

Dreyer-Goldman confirmed that Crumby does not get a vote.

“That would be a conflict of interest,”  Dreyer-Goldman said.

Chamber CEO Kenyon said the Chamber also benefited from the improved relationship.

“The advantage to the Chamber is, we can provide better value to our member businesses,” Kenyon said.

The benefits of the new partnership became evident following the October 2011 mass murder at a local beauty shop. Ingram said that following the Salon Meritage shootings, there was a daily “war room” conference at City Hall.

She said a Chamber representative was always present at those meetings.

She said it would have been difficult for the city to start the Victims’ Fund without the Chamber’s help.

Ingram said the partnership was good for business and a win-win for the government and the business community.

“In our economy, we need a healthy relationship with the Chamber more than ever,” Ingram said.

Dreyer-Goldman said the Chamber had also seen more involvement from the City Council. Ingram said a city representative was now at all Chamber ribbon cutting ceremonies.

“Both of us realize we want business go grow,” Ingram said.

She said she didn’t know how the city could survive without a healthy relationship with the Chamber.

Kenyon expressed similar sentiments.

“It just gives us a more solid foundation on which to build a future,” Kenyon said.

City of Seal Beach and Chamber: a partnership