Talk of the El Paso Chamber moving to Paul Foster’s Downtown Anson Mills Building has been going around since last summer, but confirmation came at a City Council budget meeting Tuesday.
The city’s economic development director, Jessica Herrera, remarked that the “chamber of commerce is moving to the Mills Building” to be closer to the Borderplex Alliance.
Asked about it later, Herrera said, “I do not have the date confirmed. We are working with the chamber on this as they transition out of their space later this year.”
As yet, there’s no specific date for moving out of the round building at 10 Civic Center Plaza that the chamber has occupied for the past 47 years with a dollar-a-year lease from the city.
“We have moved the issue along,” said David Jerome, the chamber’s president and CEO. “We do have a signed lease now for the sixth floor at the Mills Building, so we will be leaving at some point.
“We’re now in the buildout timing and trying to solidify that and make sure we have thought of all the other bits and pieces we’ll need to make an office work.”
The chamber will share the sixth floor of the Mills with the U.S. State Department’s security office, and the plan is to move in by the end of the year.
Its home has been next to the El Paso Convention Center and above the offices of Destination El Paso, which is responsible for attracting conventions, entertainment and for promoting tourism.
Jerome said the idea of moving didn’t come from the chamber.
“It’s an issue that came from folks like the mayor and key members who were thinking that it would be important to be located with Borderplex and the city’s Economic Development Department,” he said. “We did look at other properties and did due diligence to be sure we weren’t doing something too much out of the box.
“It’s much more motivated by the value that we hope we can provide by being co-located with the city and Borderplex.”
Jerome declined to disclose the El Paso Chamber’s income or the cost of its lease in the Mills Building.
But the chamber is a nonprofit and its publicly available Form 990 financial filing for 2017 with the IRS shows it had revenues of $1.8 million for the year and expenses of $1.9 million, exceeding income by $110,306.
The chamber’s income comes from its 1,400 business members and from events it sponsors, such as the annual State of the City and State of the Military luncheons that draw hundreds of paying supporters.
There are about 17,000 businesses in El Paso registered with the city and state.
Jerome said the chamber’s leadership took a hard look at the finances before approving the move. The chamber is free of debt and has substantial savings.
“We didn’t just go to the Mills without looking at what it would mean,” Jerome said. “We looked at our options, and it looks like it works so we said let’s go ahead and do it.
“I think the takeaway is all of the economic development players in the city are going to be in one place. It’ll be a lot easier for us to support each other.”
Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.