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Published February 05 2010

Forum editorial: West Fargo Chamber can grow

One need not be terribly perceptive to read between the lines regarding the resignation of the West Fargo Chamber of Commerce’s executive director/CEO. After only six months on the job, Kent Campbell bowed out. His abrupt departure suggests a degree of dysfunction in the Chamber that ought to concern the West Fargo business community.

The announcement last week took many in West Fargo by surprise, including Mayor Rich Mattern, who said, “It caught me completely off guard.” Mattern was not alone in wondering what happened. When Campbell took the job, the 1985 Concordia College graduate was enthusiastic about working in West Fargo. He had an impressive resume. He had extensive experience in Chamber work and economic development. He was highly qualified and highly praised. But in a relatively short time he apparently discerned the Chamber’s board was not interested in the kind of leadership he was so obviously qualified to provide.

The resignation of the Chamber exec (the second in less than a year) tarnishes the organization’s image, but it’s an opportunity for the Chamber to shake off its cherished, but misguided, small-town parochialism. As we said in this space last May:

“… the West Fargo Chamber has touted its small-town ethic as the primary reason it has resisted becoming part of the larger business community. That’s all well and good, but it flies in the face of the broader interests of West Fargo’s vibrant and diversified business sector, which, of course, depends in large part on the overall economic vitality of Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo.”

That editorial called for the West Fargo Chamber “to become part of the Chamber of Commerce of Fargo and Moorhead.”

The common sense of that call is all the more sensible now that West Fargo has lost an executive who had the potential to lead the organization in a smarter direction. Moreover, many West Fargo Chamber members also belong to the F-M Chamber. It makes no sense for them to pay fees to two chambers when the value of membership in the West Fargo Chamber is less than it could be. More and more managers of those businesses are making that calculation.

As we said in May:

“We urge the West Fargo Chamber board to rethink resistance to expanded services and opportunities for its members. The combined resources of a three-city metro chamber would mean every chamber member would get a better bang for the buck.”

What was true then has even more resonance now.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.