NM Chamber, Main Street talk restructuring

By David Fenker

NORTH MANCHESTER -- In a brief public meeting Thursday, June 29, representatives from several local organizations discussed the potential restructuring of Manchester Main Street and the North Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

The two nonprofits began talking about joining forces several weeks ago, and announced two public meetings to share information. Thursday's meeting, attended by eight people, was the second of those.

MMS board president Matt Nettleton led the discussion in the Blocher Room of North Manchester Public Library.

Nettleton noted that Wabash-based lawyer Steve Downs is handling the legal side of the transition, and working with the transition board to explain what the new structure will look like.

“I think we'll still have the various committees within each organization that run FunFest and America In Bloom, Historic Preservation,” he said. “… it's a (c)6 with a foundation that's the (c)3.”

Currently, MMS is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and the chamber is a 501(c)6.

Julie Garber, program director of the Community Foundation of Wabash County, attended the meeting and provided insight on the foundation's relationship with MMS and the chamber.

“[The transition] makes it a little easier to partner, for us,” she said. “The chamber, as a (c)6 – we can give grants to a (c)6, if the (c)6 is doing charitable work, and then there has to be a lot of oversight to make sure that the money is spent charitably. But, since you've got a (c)3, which is already imbued with the responsibility for charitable money, we can more easily support those activities.

“It sounds like a lot of communities are doing it this way.”

Transition board member and former chamber board chair Sebrena Cline added, “Neither entity actually goes totally away, because you still need to maintain those taxing structures.”

The proposed structure will allow the 501(c)3 foundation to receive grant money from a wide variety of sources – such as the community foundation – to support the 501(c)6, which will continue the mission of the new both Main Street and the chamber.

That mission, Nettleton said, focuses on economic vitality and enhancing the quality of life in North Manchester.

“We talked about creating a vibrant and inclusive community, which we think is important,” he said, “promoting economic vitality, which is obviously key to both organizations and it's going to continue forward; and promoting and celebrating historical legacy, what made Manchester what it is, what we hope to continue to be, and foster a dynamic future, so that in 20-30 years, Manchester is even better than it is at this current moment.”

Reasons for the transition center around the benefits of consolidating into one organization.

“We're in a small pond, right?” Nettleton said. “Instead of tapping the same resources twice, trying to get with businesses – and both having the goal of economic vitality – it made a lot more sense to kind of join forces.”

Chamber board chair Susan Roesner added, “We're stronger together, we're better together, always have been. So, we should work together.”

According to a handout from the meeting, additional reasons include increase efficiency and effectiveness, potential for greater impact, and better opportunities for collaboration with other county and regional organizations.

The transition board is composed of 18 North Manchester area residents, ranging from chamber members to MMS members to unaffiliated community leaders.

“It's a really great cross section of leadership in the community,” Nettleton said of the transition board.
He noted that the transition board has been critical of the process.

“Those that have been a fan of it from day one, pushing the initiative, would have a kind of reaction when we saw something – like, 'Wait a second, I don't understand. Time out, this doesn't sound right; explain more,'” he said.

Information on the transition may be found on both the MMS ( and chamber ( websites, including frequently asked questions and contact information for the transition board.

Nettleton said the information on both websites will be updated after each transition board meeting, should there be any updates.

“It's good for us to remember that it's a fluid process,” Cline said. “As we work, there are things that we see have to change and do differently, and we're learning.”

Nettleton said that the transition board hopes to put the matter to vote by the membership by October, with the new board being elected and taking over by January.

The name for the new organization is yet to be determined.

Posted on 2018 Jul 10