The Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce advertised it would make a historic announcement on March 28, and it did: The organization is merging with the MidJersey Chamber of Commerce and becoming the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce. It is also moving from downtown Princeton to larger offices at 600 Alexander Road, though chamber CEO Peter Crowley said the move was planned long before the merger.
The change was announced by MidJersey board chair Jeannine Cimino and Princeton board chair John Goedeke at a Princeton chamber event at Mercer Oaks.
There wasn’t much left for the Princeton Chamber to merge with. The Trenton-based MidJersey Chamber stopped holding events last year and published the last edition of its monthly magazine in 2017. Cimino will take a role in the merged organization in the newly created position of vice chair, but otherwise the existing Princeton Regional Chamber staff will run the new organization. Dues-paying MidJersey members will also be transferred to the new group, which is gaining about 250 members from the merger, bringing its total membership up to 1,600. (Many businesses were members of both groups, and Crowley said the Princeton Chamber is not counting members who were behind on their MidJersey memberships.) The group will continue to hold about 115 events a year, according to a press release about the merger.
“The way we look at it is we’ve acquired the membership list and acquired the history,” Crowley said. The MidJersey Chamber traces its roots back to the Trenton Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade in 1868. “Right now we’re looking at programs they have that match ours pretty closely. The most important thing is that you’ve now got one voice in the region. You now have one voice that speaks for all the business community.”
The new chamber will also expand some of the old Princeton Chamber programs, such as the Women in Business Alliance, the Real Estate Business Alliance, and the Young Professionals Network into the MidJersey Chamber’s old territory in and around Trenton.
“We recognize the significant impact this consolidation will have on our region, creating one unified voice and fiscally strong business organization promoting the interests of all companies, of all sizes, in Central New Jersey,” Crowley said in a prepared statement.
He said the Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber negotiated an agreement to eventually terminate the MidJersey Chamber’s lease of an expensive office on Riverview Drive in Trenton. IRS forms show that the office was a major budget item for the MidJersey chamber and appears to have put financial pressure on the group. The 2017 IRS 990 form shows $106,000 a year in “occupancy” costs.
Overall the MidJersey Chamber took in around $1.3 million, but spent $1.4 million, losing $80,000 and ending that year with just $40,000 in net assets.
The same forms for the Princeton Chamber that year show a more financially healthy organization, with revenue of $1.6 million about the same as expenses and around $301,519 in net assets. Crowley said he expects the Princeton Mercer Chamber will have $1.8 to $1.9 million in revenue, which translates into a $1 million savings to members of the business community who had dual memberships.
Crowley said the new Alexander Road office will cost about the same as its Nassau Street office but will have an additional 300 square feet for the chamber’s eight employees.
The MidJersey Chamber’s glossy magazine was another major expense. Crowley said he had no immediate plans to begin publishing it again. “We’ll take a look at the magazine and its costs and benefits. We’ll look at a digital version. But I don’t see any immediate need to bring it back.”
There are signs the new chamber faces some competition. On March 14 the Northern Burlington Chamber added “Mercer” to its name and became the Burlington Mercer Chamber of Commerce.
Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce, 182 Nassau Street, Suite 301, Princeton 08542. 609-924-1776. Peter Crowley, CEO. www.princetonmercerchamber.org.
In last week’s issue of U.S. 1, we wrote that the Princeton Regional Chamber got its name in 2012, right after the Mercer Chamber changed its name to MidJersey Chamber and took on a regional focus. In fact, the “Chamber of Commerce of the Princeton Area” changed its name to the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce in 2002.