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Survey: Mergers Displace Business Leaders

Photonics Spectra
Jun 2000
Gaynell Terrell

Chamber of commerce executives are generally upbeat folks, faithfully pitching their local economies. But in a recent national survey, 60 percent of the executives polled said that the rash of mergers and acquisitions in the last decade has hurt their communities.

Negative effects included the loss of high-level business leadership in community issues, loss of local identity, lower levels of giving to charity and loss of jobs, especially among middle and top managers, according to the American Chamber of Commerce Executives.

"Executives do tend to do more in the communities where they live," said Steve Tedesco, president of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce in California. He noted that the aggressive business acquisition and merger climate has had mixed results: The economy is booming, but people are working more and the traditional chamber member has less time to participate in community events. People are making fortunes on technology stocks, start-ups and dot-coms, but once they've acquired a personal fortune in this modern-day gold rush they are likely to move elsewhere.

Stan Zemler, president of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce in Colorado, agreed with the majority of chamber executives who believe mergers have weakened community ties and eroded leadership. "From a chamber perspective, we have certainly lost members because they're under a broader umbrella" following a buyout or merger. "As for the high-tech companies, we're seeing a little less [community] participation because they're pedal-to-the-metal for two years or so in hopes of being acquired."

The national survey indicated that 73 percent of chamber executives in the Northeast felt mergers were locally injurious to their communities, while only 52 percent of executives in the Midwest held the same opinion. In the South, that number was 56 percent, and in the West, 62 percent.

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