Kirk Effinger: Vista Village Business Association needs a merger

In an era where chambers of commerce and other business organizations continue to struggle to stay afloat, the latest news regarding the Vista Village Business Association (VVBA) begs the question, “Why put off the inevitable?”

According to media reports, the beleaguered downtown Vista group finds its very existence threatened yet again after the resignation of their latest executive director, the fifth in the last eight years.

Other signs of turmoil include the resignations of ten different board members since 2012.

Add to this concerns that have arisen regarding Vista’s potential loss of its designation as a Main Street downtown.

For the past several years, the organization has enjoyed status as a designated Main Street by the California Main Street Alliance, one of only 27 statewide. That prestigious status may be pulled, according to that organization’s Executive Director Laura Cole-Rowe, unless the VVBA addresses a number of issues, including developing a policy manual and funding goals.

In addition, Vista city council member Cody Campbell has suggested the city’s financial support of the organization could be jeopardized unless the problems are addressed.

Although I can’t say for certain, given the modest cash flow of VVBA and the revolving door with both paid and volunteer leadership, logic tells me they are not paying enough to keep the hired help — because they can’t — and there may be disaffection and dysfunction on the board.

Having served on the board of directors of another business group myself, I am acutely aware of the importance of offering and paying a competitive salary to the people who are chiefly responsible for their success. Done right, the return on investment greatly exceeds the initial cost.

Business owners everywhere understand the value of consolidations and mergers to bring operating costs under control. The answer the VVBA’s dilemma, in my estimation, would be to negotiate a merging of its membership and mission with that of the Vista Chamber of Commerce.

The Vista Chamber of Commerce is a business organization that represents and serves hundreds of the city’s businesses, with a paid professional staff that see to day-to-day operations. Until this latest resignation, VVBA had a staff of one and, not long ago had been forced to lay off a previous CEO due to dwindling revenue.

The VVBA puts on events in the downtown area. The Vista Chamber puts on events in the downtown area.

The VVBA has its offices in downtown Vista. The Vista Chamber has its offices in downtown Vista.

The chamber has a staff experienced in event promotion and business advocacy, a mission that it shares with the VVBA, albeit not confined to the Central Vista Business Improvement District. The VVBA?

This is not a novel proposal, nor is it one that hasn’t been tried in the past.

There was an attempt to merge the organizations in 2003, but it was apparently thwarted over objections to a negotiating point involving the retention of VVBA’s then CEO. Since the most recent CEO has left the post that obviously should no longer be an obstacle.

Kirk W. Effinger was born in San Diego and raised in Southern California. He and his family have been residents of San Marcos for the past 30 years.  His opinion columns have appeared regularly in the North County Times and, later, the San Diego Union-Tribune since 1995. He can be reached at kirkinsanmarcos@att.net or follow him on Twitter at @kirkeffinger 

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