LINCOLN — The Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce will take the next 30 days to reorganize and seek input from businesses, citizens and local leaders on the organization’s future.
Effective Wednesday, the chamber will suspend operations in an attempt to restructure the current model, which officials have said, is not working.
The chamber’s board of directors released a statement, making the announcement:
“The current financial viability of the chamber has digressed to a situation where we have had to lay off the staff in an effort to restructure the current model to a level of financial stability,” the chamber said. “The layoffs were nonperformance-related, and we are disappointed by this decision.”
The statement was signed by the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Cathy Wilhite, the president and CEO of the chamber, referred all questions to board Chairman Greg Basford.
“We are waiting on making any statements until we look at this from every angle and decide how to move forward with a structured, long-term plan,” he said.
Lincoln Mayor Seth Goodman called the decision to suspend operations “unfortunate” but thinks better days are ahead.
“I hope they can work something out,” he said. “I know they have been kind of spiraling downward, and I believe they reached the point where something drastic had to be done. I am glad that they are taking the steps, but have plans to come back.
"I think they can come back stronger than what it was and everyone can move forward.”
Goodman said several Lincoln residents have expressed concerns about future chamber-sponsored events. First up, is the annual Christmas parade scheduled for Dec. 7.
“The tourism bureau is going to take that over and the city of Lincoln will assist with that as well,” he said.
The chamber also coordinates the annual hot-air balloon festival in August, which draws thousands of spectators each year.
“From what I understand, there are some members on the board of directors who have promised to assist with that and that will still go on,” he said. “We have a number of great volunteers in Lincoln, and I believe things will get done.”
According to The (Bloomington) Pantagraph archives, the Lincoln Commercial Club was formed in March 1911 by 15 business leaders of the community. The club started with 51 members and in 1922, changed its name to the Chamber of Commerce of Lincoln.
In 1970, the organization became the Greater Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce and, 17 years later, changed its name again to the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce.
In recent years, the chamber has experienced a number of changes. In 2014, the chamber merged with the Logan County Tourism Bureau and Main Street Lincoln, forming the Logan County Alliance. Two years later, the chamber announced it was leaving the alliance but has struggled with funding since.