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Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Published: Friday, 4/25/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

Chamber of commerce director cuts his own job

Holland-Springfield lacks funds for a staff

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The new director of a suburban Toledo chamber of commerce recently resigned after discovering the group couldn't afford any paid positions — including his own.

The Holland-Springfield Chamber of Commerce hired Josh Torres in March, tasking him with evaluating the organization and developing recommendations to help improve the group's operations.

What Mr. Torres quickly found were significant financial issues that demanded sweeping changes in the way the chamber was run, including the shift to an all-volunteer staff. That put him in the odd position of having to eliminate his own job.

“I felt a moral and ethical obligation to make them aware of that as a professional,” he said Thursday. “That's exactly what I did, and they've moved forward."

He resigned April 16, just five weeks after being hired.

In addition to eliminating paid staff, the chamber will move its offices from the current location on Airport Highway to Holland’s municipal building at the end of the month.

Chamber officials downplayed the changes, saying the group’s 225-plus members won’t notice any differences in service.

“We’re just streamlining our operations,” said Connie Koch, who chairs the board’s executive committee. “We have all of our good programming, and all our networking opportunities will continue.”

The chamber presented the changes to its membership at a meeting on Thursday. Ms. Koch said members are being supportive. She also praised Mr. Torres for his short, if not peculiar, stint with the chamber, saying he “equipped the board with the tools to move forward as a volunteer organization.”

Mr. Torres, who continues to lead the Anthony Wayne Regional Chamber of Commerce in Whitehouse, said he believes the board has made the right decisions and thinks they'll be able to successfully move forward.

“It’s unfortunate it didn't work out, but at the same time as a professional, they have to be able to maintain their operations,” he said. “They can, they will, they'll be OK. They've got a great group of strong people that'll make it work."

How the chamber got into the position it did wasn't clear. Mr. Torres said chamber officials were “alarmed” by his findings.

Ms. Koch said the recession and slow economic recovery were partly to blame.

“As you know this has been a difficult economy and all businesses have been focused to make those decisions — do I renew a membership or pay other commitments?” she said.

Both said the group has no tax or legal troubles.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134 or on Twitter @BladeAutoWriter.



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