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Eastern Tech Council, MAC Alliance to merge

The two local trade groups tended to attract the same audience at their events and say the combination is a natural one.

In a long overdue move, two local entrepreneur-oriented business organizations are merging.

The Eastern Technology Council will combine with an affiliate of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, called the Mid-Atlantic Capital Alliance.

I say it's overdue, because the Philadelphia region seems to have as many entrepreneurial, technology, and other business groups as school districts. Each has staked out a niche, but there is so much overlap that none speaks with a strong voice.

That's what was supposed to happen when the founders of Centocor Inc. and Safeguard Scientifics Inc. started the Technology Council of Greater Philadelphia in 1990. Such promise led nearly 500 information-technology and life-sciences firms to join up.

But the Great Recession has downsized the membership of what is now called the Eastern Technology Council. The trade association now claims about 450 members, down from more than 600 in November 2008.

The Mid-Atlantic Capital Alliance, which tends to shorten its name to "MAC Alliance," got its start as the trade group for Philadelphia's underdeveloped venture capital sector in 1982. Its focus has been on the capital providers and advisory professionals in the deal-making community. It has about 100 member firms.

After nearly a year of discussions, the boards of both associations approved the merger. Dean Miller, a partner at Wayne-based Novitas Capital, will be the part-time CEO of the as-yet unnamed organization with a staff of five.

Dianne Strunk, CEO of the Eastern Technology Council, and Carolyn Maher, executive director of the MAC Alliance, will stay with the new organization, which will be a chamber affiliate.

Miller said the merger makes "total sense" since both groups produced events that attracted the same audience. The combination, to be rebranded June 3, will host the Mid-Atlantic Capital Conference in November and Enterprise Awards in December, and present "more relevant" content in smaller events, he said.

Such focus is good, but let's not forget that the University City Science Center, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Pennsylvania Bio, and the Entrepreneurs' Forum of Greater Philadelphia ply those waters, too.

The founders of the Eastern Tech Council had drawn inspiration from the Pittsburgh Technology Council, begun in 1983, and envisioned outstripping their Western Pennsylvania counterpart. Instead, the Pittsburgh group boasts membership of 1,400 firms.

As much sense as it makes to thin the herd of Philadelphia business groups, this deal shows how far our region has to go in rationalizing its resources to capitalize on its business base.