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M-I Chamber plans Independence move

MONMOUTH -- The Monmouth-Independence Chamber of Commerce will move to Independence in August.

MONMOUTH -- The Monmouth-Independence Chamber of Commerce will move to Independence in August.

The chamber's board of directors recently voted to leave its current home on Highway 99W in Monmouth for Independence's old public library as part of a cost-cutting measure -- the city will allow the chamber to use a portion of the building for free for the next two years.

Terri Gregory, MICC president, said she believed the move would help the organization save money that it could reinvest in other programs -- namely, a stronger virtual presence.

"We knew we needed to cut expenses," Gregory said. "This will be a temporary move, so we can realign ourselves and begin to work toward better business retention and expansion."

The chamber will occupy half of Independence's old library at the intersection of Monmouth and Third streets; the Independence Downtown Association will operate a town-specific visitor center in the remaining space.

The move will happen the first week of August. City officials approached the chamber with the opportunity, Gregory said.

"Free is a pretty good price," she said.

Part of the chamber's money issues have stemmed from its 2009 move -- from Independence, ironically -- to 309 N. Pacific Ave. in Monmouth. The location was a prime one. But the lease, $1,900 a month, with a $500 increase expected this summer, is too much for an organization with limited revenue sources, said Marilyn Morton, MICC manager.

"We get some money from Monmouth and Independence, and we're grateful for that," she said. "But this was a losing battle.

"Most of our income comes in a cyclical manner, when memberships are renewed between October and January. We're lean during this part of the year and this is when that disparity will kill us."

Gregory said she and other board members had reservations about moving off of a state highway. But the site was only seeing two or three walk-in visitors an average day.

"And it's not like everybody who was on their way to a (Oregon State University) football game in Corvallis was stopping by our building," Morton said.

Indeed, most communication or inquiries were by phone or via e-mail, she said.

"We've done research and while it's important to have a visitor center, having a virtual center is just as important," Gregory said.

The chamber has begun soliciting bids from web developers to overhaul its existing website. The hope is such a project could be complete by the end of the year.

Gregory said she personally hoped that the chamber would be able to find and purchase its own location in the future.

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