RiverQuest to Explore Merger with Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp.
17 June 2014
By Natasha Lindstrom, Staff Reporter
Weeks from folding, the financially floundering RiverQuest might
have found the life-preserver it needs to keep its river-based
science education program afloat.
RiverQuest's leaders have signed a formal agreement to explore a
merger with Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp., a Homestead-based
nonprofit formed to preserve Western Pennsylvania's heritage and
spur redevelopment across eight counties. The potential solution
to RiverQuest's money problems hinges on the findings of a
consulting study expected to take 30 to 60 days.
“I'm optimistic that RiverQuest will be financially healthy and go
forward with lots of new programs, but we need to be sure about
our theory of being able to merge,” said RiverQuest President Jim
Roddey, who announced the agreement Tuesday. “The study will show
whether or not we can both come together to fulfill our missions
and still be able to get the kind of grant support and earned
income that we need to make it balanced.”
Roddey warned in April that without a merger in the works,
RiverQuest would shut down at the end of this month. The North
Side-based RiverQuest, formerly known as Pittsburgh Voyager, has
provided hands-on science programs to more than 100,000 school
students and another 100,000 members of the general public over
two decades. This past school year, the nonprofit taught 7,275
students from 97 schools.
“We would hate to see RiverQuest disappear,” said August Carlino,
president and CEO of Rivers of Steel. Carlino said he read about
RiverQuest's dire straits in the Tribune-Review and phoned that
Saturday in April to see what he could do to help.
RiverQuest's financial woes coincided with school districts
tightening their budgets over the past six years or so, since its
programs depended on schools providing students free busing and
paying a $30 fee per student. The loss of school revenue, combined
with the state yanking its annual grants, upended RiverQuest's
business model, Roddey said. The seven-employee group slashed its
budget nearly in half since 2008-09, down to about $1.1 million,
and relied on leaner operating costs and corporate sponsorships to
make it through the past year.
Carlino emphasized that a full merger isn't the only option; the
two groups could instead form a “strategic partnership of some
sort that means each retains its independence and own identity.”
“We have to make sure that what comes out of this is something
that makes both organizations stronger than what they are today,”
Carlino said. “It can't be something that saves one organization
but creates a problem for the other.”
This summer, RiverQuest leaders plan to make extra money by
chartering boats for wedding receptions, corporate events and
science center tours while doing projects with the state
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
A local foundation that asked to remain anonymous offered to pay
for the consulting study, Roddey said.
Natasha Lindstrom is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can
be reached at 412-380-8514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/6298699-74/riverquest-merger-carlino#ixzz34yWmBDWU