Area Nonprofits Announce Plans for a Merger
WNHS and NEDCO Will Grow to Serve Six Counties
CORVALLIS OR, November 20 – Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services and Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation, better known as NEDCO, have announced plans to merge the two organizations. They have been evaluating the possibility of a merger for over a year and the final decision was recently made at a meeting of the two Boards of Directors.
“We took our time making this decision,” according to Betty Schmidt, President of WNHS’ Board of Directors. “We’re both strong, healthy organizations, and don’t want to mess with success. But we also see a future in which we’re stronger and more effective working together.”
WNHS is a private nonprofit that develops affordable renter- and owner-occupied housing, helps people buy their first home, and operates the Linn Benton Health Equity Alliance. WNHS, based in Corvallis, provides services in Benton, Linn, and Lincoln Counties.
NEDCO is a private nonprofit that also develops housing and helps with homeownership, but has a greater focus on community economic development. NEDCO also operates Community LendingWorks, a community development loan fund that helps with small business and consumer loans. NEDCO is based in Springfield and provides services in Lane, Marion, and Clackamas Counties.
Emily Reiman, Executive Director of NEDCO, says the primary motivation behind the merger is the ability to offer more comprehensive and effective services. “Helping address big problems like wealth inequality, poor neighborhood conditions, and health disparities is complex work. Small organizations only have the capacity to work on one piece of the problem so their impact is limited. This merger will give us the capacity to deliver more comprehensive approaches to communities in need.”
Even though the merger means growing from a three-county to a six-county service area, Reiman emphasizes WNHS’ and NEDCO’s commitment to the communities they already serve.
“Our goal is to increase our effectiveness, not dilute it,” says Reiman. “We’ve both established great working relationships in a number of communities and we know our success depends on those relationships.” She adds that the merged organization will employ almost 50 employees and will maintain current office locations in Springfield, Corvallis, Salem, and Oregon City.
One challenge organizations face when considering a merger is the question of who becomes the chief executive. This is not an issue for WNHS and NEDCO because Jim Moorefield, WNHS’ Executive Director, is headed towards retirement.
“The two Boards of Directors have agreed that Emily Reiman will become the new chief executive,” says Vincent Martorello, President of NEDCO’s Board of Directors. “Emily has done a great job at NEDCO and both Boards have a lot of confidence in her.”
Joining Reiman on the executive leadership team will be Brigetta Olson, WNHS’ Deputy Director, and Cori Riley, WNHS’ Chief Financial Officer.
“Sometime in 2018 I’ll step down as WNHS’ Executive Director, but I’ll continue to work on special projects for quite a while,” says Moorefield. “My focus will be on completing the merger and working on development projects we have lined up in south Corvallis.”
WNHS recently purchased 7.7 acres in south Corvallis that is zoned for residential and mixed-use commercial development. Moorefield says the south Corvallis mixed-use center will be a good test for the merged organization’s new capacity. “We see a neighborhood center with housing, a grocery store, a food business incubator facility, other small businesses, and space for community gatherings. It’s a project that will call upon all the skills of our two organizations working as a team with neighbors, businesses, the City of Corvallis, and other property owners.”
The merger process is expected to take one to two years because of the complexities involved. “Individual real estate projects are commonly developed under separate business entities,” says Olson. “In the case of WNHS and NEDCO, the merger will impact 13 different corporate entities, each of which has its own group of lenders and investors. Just securing all their approvals will take quite a while.”
Olson adds that it’s essential for the merger to result in maintaining WNHS’ membership in the NeighborWorks Network. The network is supported by a national intermediary, NeighborWorks America, whose website describes members as “more than 240 of the nation’s best community development organizations.”
“Being a network member brings a lot of resources, both financial and technical, to WNHS and the communities we serve,” says Olson. “So it’s essential for the merger to be done carefully and result in continued support from NeighborWorks America.”
Will the merged organization have a new name? “NEDCO was formed in 1979, and WNHS in 1991,” says Reiman. “That means a lot of history and success is associated with our names. But yes, the merger will require a name change that signifies our broader purpose and service area. Landing on a new name will be one of the last steps we take, so it will be a while before we’re ready to announce it.”