ALBANY — The Capital Region’s largest chamber of commerce and the region’s economic development agency are considering affiliating.
The Capital Region Chamber and the Center for Economic Growth made the announcement late last week. The goal would be to unite business service/business advocacy and business development under a single organization.
Capital Region Chamber President Mark Eagan said Monday that the proposal is a return to a previous model in a couple of ways.
Chambers of commerce historically had an economic development mission that many ceded to specialized entities later in the 20th century, he said. In this particular situation, CEG was created in 1987 by the Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce, the founding organization of what is now the Capital Region Chamber.
If the affiliation goes through, while CEG would become a subsidiary of the chamber, the two entities would retain their separate public identities. The Chamber would continue to focus its business advocacy efforts on the heart of the Capital Region — Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Saratoga counties. CEG would continue its economic development work in the entire Capital Region, which follows the state definition: Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren and Washington counties.
“Our ultimate goals are very much aligned,” Eagan said. “We’ve always tried to stay in our own lanes, but the work has been very complementary.”
CEG President Andrew Kennedy will not be part of the transition — he is leaving to join an Albany lobbying firm.
The Capital Region Chamber was formed when the Albany-Colonie and Schenectady County chambers of commerce voted to affiliate in 2015. It was structured in such a way that it could absorb other entities in the future.
The first such affiliation was the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County, in 2019.
The Schenectady County and Southern Saratoga County chambers still exist in name but both function as part of the Capital Region Chamber.
Eagan said the spread is intentional: The Capital Region Chamber has always seen its constituency as the community, not a community, and “The community doesn’t stop at a town line or a county line.”
He hopes other Capital Region organizations with aligned missions will seek to affiliate in the future.
The affiliation agreement is under review by a working group from the two organizations that is expected to make recommendations in September.
The affiliation is beyond the exploratory stage but not a foregone conclusion, Eagan said. The task force will construct a working model of finances and other aspects of an affiliation, and if everything works, the agreement is likely to be approved.