Local chambers struggle to grow, find their identity

The chamber of commerce name game continues as groups search to establish a more regional vibe.

But don’t look for unification anytime soon.

Nearly a year ago, the Del Mar Regional Chamber changed to the San Diego Coastal Chamber and expanded its reach east to Rancho Santa Fe and Carmel Valley and south to La Jolla.

Meanwhile, the San Diego Golden Triangle Chamber is considering change to bring La Jolla into the fold, and Solana Beach sits alone.

The Golden Triangle group, with about 50 members, has ideas about creating a regional identity, Executive Director George Schmall said.

But the organization is looking to neighboring La Jolla instead of to the north.

“Probably two-thirds to three-quarters of our members are actually in the 92037 ZIP code,” he said.

“Nobody is talking about starting a La Jolla chamber. But part of our strategy is to grow and have a more regional view. The thinking is to make more of a regional presence and market to that whole area.”

A new ‘handle’

If the board approves the change, Schmall said the group’s new “handle” would be the La Jolla Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce.

While there isn’t a La Jolla Chamber of Commerce, a local businessman has the rights to the name.

John Walsh, past head of the Golden Triangle Chamber who is no longer affiliated with the organization, said recently that he “got a DBA (fictitious name) for La Jolla Chamber a year ago.”

Regarding his plans for the fictitious name he took out, Walsh said: “I don’t know if I’m going to use it or not. I just didn’t want them to change their name.”

Going Coastal

Nigel Mallett, chairman of the San Diego Coastal Chamber of Commerce board with about 320 members, said Del Mar changed its focus to gain more regional appeal.

“We wanted to spread our territory out to Sorrento Valley, UTC and La Jolla, which doesn’t have a chamber of commerce,” he said.

They considered a merger with Golden Triangle, but that fell through.

“We negotiated with them for two or three years,” Mallett said. “The president of Golden Triangle procrastinated and made conditions, and we just decided it wasn’t worth it. In the end, our board decided it (merger) had no advantage. We were trying to pick up members, and there was nothing for us to pick up. It was like a negative asset.”

Solana Beach chamber officials approached the Coastal Chamber group in November, but that “never came to fruition for much the same reason - nothing in it for Del Mar,” he added.

Mallet said the Golden Triangle group is done with merger talks.

“It hasn’t worked out,” he said.

“We’re just trying to get a strong group having networking functions, sundowners and luncheons.”