The memberships of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce and the Ponte Vedra Beach Chamber of Commerce on Friday each overwhelmingly passed a resolution to merge the two organizations and unify the St. Johns County business community.
In St. Augustine, where the county chamber held its special general membership meeting at the St. Augustine and St. Johns County Board of Realtors, the membership voted unanimously, 83-0, to merge the two organizations. A few hours earlier at the Sawgrass Marriott, the members of the Ponte Vedra Beach chamber voted 54-2 to merge.
For the first time since the two organizations split in 1996, the county chamber has united the county's two largest geographic areas of employment. While the organizations will be merged under the flag of the St. Johns County Chamber, part of the merger resolution states the chamber will create a Ponte Vedra Beach division, which will have a dedicated office and staff.
"The overwhelming support from our respective memberships affirms our belief that our organizations will be stronger together," said Kirk Wendland, president of the county chamber. "We look forward to exploring the new opportunities this partnership will make possible."
Wendland said the merger is not the result of one organization seeking out the other; but the impetus for the merger was a desire to cooperate that concluded with the idea that one organization can best serve the entire county.
Once the merger is official, which the county chamber expects will happen in mid-March, the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce will have nearly 1,100 members. Currently, the Ponte Vedra Beach Chamber has more than 300 members and the county chamber has just less than 800 members.
"The passing of today's resolutions ensures that our county will have one powerful voice for business," said Sandra Kavanaugh, Ponte Vedra Beach executive director. "As we move forward in partnership, I am excited with the ideas of what we can accomplish together."