With one of its most active members taking a backseat and the merger of two similar groups in town, the future of the grassroots Madison Merchants group was certainly shaky. But following a morning huddle earlier this month the entrepreneurs emerged with a new taskmaster and handfuls of verbal commitments to keep M2, as the organization is often called, alive.

“It’s essential to our livelihood that this group continues,” said Connie Brown, co-owner of Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor.

Brown will step into the lead role for M2, a spot left vacant by Tonya Hart, who decided several months ago she couldn’t continue the frantic pace of running her own business and spearheading the collaborative advertising projects that benefit M2 members. But Brown said she has made it clear this will not be a one person show. For the cooperative to continue there needs to be more cooperation, said Brown.

Following their Feb. 6 meeting, the 44 members of M2 were solicited to sign up for various projects that need to be completed in the next month. Most of the tasks deal with establishing a new structure within the group, both for the purpose of sharing the workload and helping to reassess their strategies. The business climate on Madison Street has changed for the better in recent years, which in some ways renders obsolete the need for certain efforts. Two other pro-business groups merged at the start of the New Year to become the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce and Development, a move intended to reduce duplicate services and pool resources for new goals.

M2 will focus solely on Madison Street in 2008, according to Brown, while the chamber organization works with businesses throughout the village.

“The entire goal is to advertise,” Brown said.

To that end, M2 plans to request supplemental funding from the municipality and has met with Village Administrator Mike Sturino to begin those discussions. Also, members will be asked to sign a revised contract stipulating to their workload and financial obligations. The scale of the 2008 marketing efforts should be on par with that of previous years, said Brown, but is contingent on the efforts of a greater number of participants. In recent years, Hart teamed up with Cecilia Hardacker, Jane Ertel and Heidi Vance to spearhead the organization’s projects.