2 Groups Join to Create O.C. Business Council : Merger: Chamber of Commerce, Industrial League ‘should be much more powerful combined,’ an official says.


Orange County’s two dominant business groups announced plans Wednesday to merge, creating an organization with 2,100 member companies with 350,000 local employees.

The new organization, to be called the Orange County Business Council, will meld the Orange County Chamber of Commerce & Industry with the Industrial League of Orange County.

The goal is to help the local business community make “an immense leap forward,” Fred Mickelson, chamber chairman, said during a news conference at the Center Club in Costa Mesa.


The two groups said they initiated merger talks in February and reached final agreement this week during separate board meetings Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Board members voted unanimously for the merger, to be completed within 90 days. The groups have not decided where the new organization’s headquarters will be.

Industrial League President Todd B. Nicholson will serve as president of the new Business Council. Chamber President Ken Moore will be executive vice president for economic development. A transition team that includes executives from each organization will oversee the merger.

The combination “makes a lot of sense,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist with the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County. “In many cases, business organizations are competing with each other for the same membership.”

Dennis Aigner, dean of the UC Irvine Graduate School of Management, characterized the merger as “a really terrific opportunity.”

Aigner, who is a member of the Industrial League’s board, said that the chamber “has been much more of a marketing vehicle,” while the league “has been much more involved with the business policy and lobbying types of things.”


By combining, he said, “they’re not competing with each other. . . . They should be much more powerful combined. It will be Orange County business speaking with one voice rather than two.”

Chamber President Moore said that, given the county’s current financial crisis, “it’s important now, more than ever, that we come together.” The new group, he said, will be positioned to “take a leadership role in the state of California and perhaps the nation.”


One Voice for Business

The Orange County Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Industrial League of Orange County say they will combine into a single group. Details about the two components of the new Orange County Business Council:

Industrial League Chamber of Commerce Established 1970 1912 Member companies 900 1,200 Employees at member firms 150,000 200,000

Sources: Industrial League of Orange County, Orange County Chamber of Commerce & Industry; Researched by VALERIE WILLIAMS-SANCHEZ / Los Angeles Times