OCEAN PINES– The Ocean Pines Chamber of Commerce will be changing its name to the Worcester County Chamber of Commerce.
Kerrie Bunting, president and CEO of the Ocean Pines Chamber, confirmed this week that the chamber was changing its name. She said the new moniker would better reflect what the organization did and would help strengthen Worcester County.
“We’re simply trying to provide unity and economic support for the entire region,” she said. “Our hopes are that we can have a collaborative partnership with the other chambers moving forward.”
Bunting advised chamber partners with an email last week that the Ocean Pines Chamber would be changing its name. In an interview this week, Bunting said the change was being made for a variety of reasons.
“We are already providing support for many regional businesses and nonprofits,” she said. “The name, Ocean Pines, gets confusing if I’m talking to a business in Snow Hill or Princess Anne. The name change goes with what we’re already doing. When the chamber was founded in 1975 it was a lot different. Ocean Pines was just a baby. There were maybe three or four businesses within the Pines. It has changed so much. Racetrack Road has run into West Ocean City and Berlin. We’re no longer just focused on Ocean Pines businesses anyway because of the economic growth our area has witnessed.”
She said the chamber’s board started considering the idea of a name change in April. Chamber officials talked about the idea with other chambers and Bunting said its “most active” business partners were surveyed. The chamber also worked with the Small Business Development Center on a business plan. After months of planning and research, the board unanimously approved the name change.
“We’re a nonprofit governed by a board of directors,” she said. “This is not the Kerrie show, this is an organization led by 15 people who formulated this and thought it through.”
She said that beginning in January, the chamber would host open houses throughout the county to introduce itself to interested parties.
“We’re slowly rolling it out,” she said. “We look forward to working with other chambers as well as communities. We’re hoping to provide support at community events that can help boost tourism as well as economic stimulus,” she said.
Bunting said the chamber had already applied to the state for an amendment to its articles of incorporation for the name change.
“We’re waiting on that to come back,” she said. “That’ll make it legally correct.”
Bunting stressed that the chamber would continue to provide its services and family friendly events in Ocean Pines.
“We remain dedicated to supporting the Ocean Pines community and all of its businesses,” she said. “We’ll still be located in our current office.”
Nevertheless, community members expressed concern about the chamber’s plans this week. Commissioner Chip Bertino, a Pines business owner and past president of the chamber, said he was surprised by the new name.
“I’m also saddened because the businesses that cater to the Ocean Pines community have lost their identity,” he said. “Although I believe the chamber board has the best of intentions, I’m very concerned it’s going to be perceived negatively by other chambers.”
Lisa Taylor of the Pocomoke Chamber of Commerce said the chamber had no comment. Ryan Nellans, executive director of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce, expressed mixed feelings about the name change.
“I think that having a place for county chambers and businesses to speak with a unified voice could only be to our benefit when vying for resources in Annapolis,” he said. “It seems that the Ocean Pines Chamber of Commerce Board felt they were in a position to do the speaking. Despite their assurances, I’m concerned for the inherent competition between Ocean Pines and the Snow Hill and Pocomoke chambers. I have to think they would otherwise be in a position to flourish with the scope of growth predicted in the Wallops corridor.”
Bertino said he felt the name change could confuse people who would think the chamber was associated with Worcester County’s economic development and tourism programs. Amy Thompson, executive director of the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, said she wasn’t sure what the Pines chamber would be doing that Worcester County wasn’t already doing.
She said that was one of several questions she’d shared with Bunting in the spring.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” she said. “I’m still not clear on the answers to those questions.”
Thompson, a past board member at the Ocean Pines Chamber, said the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce was in the midst of strategic planning.
“We approach any change by building consensus moving forward methodically and with intention,” she said, adding that as far as she was aware the Ocean Pines Chamber had only had one conversation with stakeholders about the change. “If the intention was to bridge the north and south ends of the county, that’s what Maryland’s Coast already does.”