2 Groups Agree to Form O.C. Business Council : Merger: Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Industrial League boards approve the plan.


The long-anticipated merger of Orange County's two dominant business groups, approved by directors of both organizations, will help local corporate executives work together better to promote the county's economy, leaders of the groups said Monday.

The new organization, called the Orange County Business Council, would replace the Orange County Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Industrial League of Orange County after their members approve the merger. The votes are expected within 30 days.

"The timing is right for a combined effort," said Todd Nicholson, the Industrial League's president. With the sluggish economic recovery and the county's bankruptcy, he said, it's imperative that the organizations coordinate efforts to spur economic development and help create a favorable business climate locally.

"We can tell there will be benefits," said Ken Moore, the chamber's president. "For one thing, we will be stronger because we can combine our resources."

The two groups, which have been in merger discussions for 13 months, have an aggregate membership of 2,100 local companies that employ 350,000 workers. Directors of both organizations approved the merger Friday.

The consolidation was applauded by outside groups. "It makes a lot of sense," said Jack Kyser, chief economist with the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County. It provides an opportunity to present a unified front on business issues, he said.

The Business Council will be willing to help the county through its financial crisis by providing advice and technical help, Nicholson said. The council also hopes to attract companies to the county and keep local businesses here.

"I think we can be very effective in the area of economic development," Nicholson said. "There has never been a single focal point relevant to job creation and economic development."

He said that past business retention efforts were led by ad hoc groups, called red teams, made up of business leaders and political figures.

Moore said that, while discussing the merger over the past year, the two groups have had an opportunity to work together on many issues, including a joint role as advisers to the county on dealing with its economic crisis.

Once the merger is approved, Nicholson will serve as the Business Council's president, and Moore will be executive vice president and president of the economic development division. Both are full-time positions. Wayne Wedin, president of Wedin Enterprises in Brea, will be chairman of a board that will contain 63 directors, essentially the boards of both entities.

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