The Mid Valley Chamber of Commerce has changed its name to the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to better market itself to the entire Valley, a move that may put it at odds with a number of other Valleywide organizations. “It’s to expand our base, the business base,” said Richard Pohl, chairman of the 400-member chamber. “This has been something we’ve been talking about for a while.” Valley Chamber CEO Nancy Hoffman Vanyek said the renaming is meant to better recognize the evolving role of the business group, which started in 1911 as the Van Nuys Chamber of Commerce and became the Mid Valley Chamber in 1989 after merging with the Panorama City and Sepulveda chambers. In recent years, Mid Valley has pushed to become the primary voice for Valley business interests and while still based in Van Nuys, “we have members from all over the San Fernando Valley and beyond,” Vanyek said. The new identity and mission, however, could put the Valley Chamber in conflict with several other groups, most notably the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley, which has positioned itself over the past several years as the chief lobbying group for the Valley’s 21 chambers of commerce and their 8,000 members. UCC President & CEO Debi Schultze said the Valley Chamber which left UCC in 2001 is not cutting in on those efforts. “They’re one local chamber and there are a lot of businesses that join many chambers,” she said. Schultze said the different factions should work together and become a broader voice. “If business is united, we can accomplish a lot more than individually,” she said. Attracting members While Valley chamber members say the change reflects the group’s changing roster, Vanyek admits it’s also in part to draw members and dollars away from other chambers and groups, which she describes as rivals. “Our biggest competitors are the chambers and VICA,” she said. “We’re all fighting for the same dollars.” Vanyek said that her chamber delivers a better service and wants to let members from other groups know about it. “Once you’ve been to one chamber event, you’ve been to them all,” she said. “But we’ve been the go-to for so many outlets.” While the UCC represents the various Valley chambers of commerce, Vanyek said, the new Valley Chamber would lobby for the Valley as a whole in addition to offering professional development and other services. “We’re trying to go out to more of the communities,” she said. That type of marketing makes the chamber a better investment, said Fred Snyder, a senior account executive at the Northridge telecommunications company Ameritel Inc. and a longtime Mid Valley member. “They’re doing business as a regional chamber,” he said. “They were really always regional they’re just making it public.” But the new name and message may not convince members of other, smaller chambers in the Valley to join. Richard K. Yamauchi runs a Sylmar accounting firm and has been part of the Sylmar Chamber of Commerce since 1988. Yamauchi said that while the chamber is small around 105 members in 2006 it helps his business on the community level. “I guess I’m an old-time, provincial person,” he said. “I like the Sylmar Chamber because it’s local.” And if there’s a reason to take an issue Valleywide, he’s comfortable with the chamber using UCC to lobby on its behalf. “They’ve been around for a long time,” Yamauchi said. “I like that.” He said he understands why Mid Valley would change its name, but questioned why it isn’t involved with UCC, arguing the entire region would prosper if all the chambers worked together as an alliance. “I think there’s some political thing going on,” he said. Duplicated roles Indeed, the name change highlights a long-simmering concern about the overlapping roles of the UCC, Mid Valley and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, another advocacy group that lobbies for Valley business interests on local, state and federal levels. One chamber, the Northridge-Porter Ranch Chamber of Commerce, left UCC in 2004 after members said its political advocacy efforts could be better served by VICA. The chamber since renamed the North Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce is still using VICA, said chamber President and CEO Wayne Adelstein. “The most effective voice for business is VICA. Leave the advocacy to them,” Adelstein said. “That’s the model that works for us.” VICA President Brendan Huffman said his group delivers a unique product to its members, but isn’t threatened by other organizations. Instead, he welcomes the help. “I don’t see it as competition. There’s enough to go around,” Huffman said. “The more business representation from the Valley we have, the better.” Adelstein also said that having additional voices forces the chambers to compete, which provides better service to members. “Those organizations should take stock of what they’re doing,” he said. He said businesses are attracted to groups that provide the best services, regardless of location or names. “No one is going to join one chamber and drop another chamber,” Adelstein said. “Businesses in the businesses of networking will go anywhere for networking opportunities. They’re going to find you, based on service.” Vanyek agrees, arguing the new name was a purely business decision. “I’m sure it puts us at odds. But we’re a business. As a business we have to do what’s right for the chamber,” adding later, “We can’t pigeonhole ourselves anymore.” _________________________________________________________ Valley Bus Extension Work Begins The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has awarded a $6 million contract for engineering and transportation services connected to a proposed extension of the Orange Line busway. The contract, with Anaheim-based Iteris Inc., covers preliminary planning, preparation of an environmental impact report, and preliminary engineering. Two options in the contract would allow Iteris to assist in developing design-build documents and assist the contractor during the construction phase, which could last through 2012. The proposed extension of the Orange Line would follow Canoga Avenue to the Chatsworth Metrolink station and possibly as far as the Ronald Reagan Freeway (state Route 118).