Pamplin Media Group – 2021 IN REVIEW: Washington County Chambers Clash


Attempts to bring the Hillsboro and Beaverton Chambers of Commerce together backfired.

A bizarre business drama unfolded over several months in 2021, as local chambers of commerce met, split, renamed and recriminated.

In February, the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce and Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce made a surprise announcement: after the departure of Lorraine Clarno, longtime CEO of the Beaverton Area Chamber, in late 2020, at the instead of hiring his own replacement for Clarno, the chamber share leadership with the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, starting in March.

From the start there were signs of danger.

The chambers were unable to come to an agreement on a formal merger, instead remaining two separate organizations. While Deanna Palm, longtime CEO of the Hillsboro Chamber, would oversee both chambers, she would report to separate boards, with the Beaverton Area Chamber retaining its own board and governance structure independent of the Hillsboro Chamber. Chambers also left ambiguous as to whether Palm’s tenure in Beaverton was intended to be a long-term arrangement or a short-term patch until the Beaverton-area chamber could appoint a permanent successor to Clarno.

Palm’s stay in Beaverton turned out to be quite short. Just over two months after the deal began, the board chairmen of both chambers abruptly announced that the chambers had “completed the term of the contract,” and just like that, Palm was no longer chairman. and Chief Executive Officer of the Beaverton Region Chamber.

Pamplin Media Group has decided to dig a little deeper.

In July, Pamplin Media Group reported that Palm’s exit came after tensions escalated between the chief executive and chamber officials in the Beaverton area.

A long-time employee resigned, emailing Palm – and members of the Beaverton Chamber Board of Directors – accusing him of demeaning behavior towards chamber workers in the Beaverton area and saying without ambages that “the room is a mess” under Palm.

One of those board members also resigned, frustrated with what she said was Palm’s refusal to consult or share information with the board. Rhonda Reister alleged that members, employees and members of the Beaverton board of directors were kept in the dark and excluded from discussions about Palm and its allies’ plans to formally merge the Beaverton and Beaverton Chambers of Commerce. Hillsboro, creating a unified entity from the two largest companies. organizations in Washington County.

While Palm apologized to the employee who had resigned – and has since been rehired – in a statement also obtained by Pamplin Media Group, within weeks she was absent and any plans to merge the region chamber de Beaverton with the Hillsboro room was rejected.

Despite the messy break up with its larger adjoining room, the Hillsboro House continued with its own rebranding plans. In late June, he unilaterally announced that subject to a vote by its members – which he later said he passed, making it official – the Hillsboro Chamber would rename itself the Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Other chambers in Washington County were bewildered.

“Your board and I do not believe this is done in good faith, nor in the best interest of the Forest Grove / Cornelius Chamber of Commerce,” Executive Director Juanita Lint wrote in a message to members of the Forest Grove / Cornelius House.

The Beaverton Area Chamber, Palm’s former employer, was even more strongly opposed. Board Chairman Keith Wright and Interim CEO Stephen Smelley said categorically in a message to members that they were “gravely concerned about any assumption or action that a chamber represents all businesses in the county. of Washington “.

“It just isn’t,” Wright and Smelley added, “and it shouldn’t be.”

Over the following months, the bedrooms seem to have settled into relaxation. The Beaverton-area chamber announced last week that the nine chambers in the partnership with the Washington County Chamber of Commerce plan to hold a “business discussion” with state lawmakers on Thursday evening, Jan.6.

“This event is brought to you by the Washington County Chambers of Commerce,” the ad added, before listing the nine in alphabetical order, with the so-called Washington County Chamber of Commerce itself in second. position from the bottom.

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