Small businesses and the local chamber of commerce

One of the most important associations any small business should have is being a member - and one of the owners - of the local chamber of commerce.  I’ve been a member of mine since 1977.  Of course, chambers promote business in the local economy as well as economic development, but they also work on political advocacy issues locally, at the state level and in Washington, D.C.  Chambers also do something no other organization can do: they are able to cut across all of the boundaries between the different stakeholders in a community, like politics, education, arts, sports, etc.  No other organization can do this like your local chamber.

Notice that I used the word “owner” earlier. The chamber is a locally owned, non-profit corporation. It is what its owners make it. That’s you. To paraphrase a great man, ask not what your chamber can do for you - ask what you can do for your chamber.

Being a chamber member is the best investment you’ll make this year. The average annual dues - my estimate - is somewhere in the $250 range. For that kind of money you can’t afford not to be a member.

One of the pilgrimages we make each year is to support the American Chamber of Commerce Executives convention, which is a gathering of professionals who run the day-to-day operations of local chambers for those owners (you) mentioned earlier. For several years now, I’ve been broadcasting my show from this event, as I did this year in Milwaukee. Below are four of those interviews. Take a minute to read what we discussed and listen to the ones that you find interesting. And as always, let me know what you think?

Interview 1. Steve Baas, Government Relations Director for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, and I discuss the importance of local chambers of commerce and what his chamber is doing to support small business. We also talk about some public policy issues, such as the 1099 reporting controversy.  Listen Live! Download, Too!

Interview 2. Steve Millard, President and CEO of Cleveland, Ohio’s Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE), and I talk about what the Cleveland chamber is doing for small businesses, including advocating for revisions of the health care bill that hurt small businesses. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Interview 3. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce president, Gary Toebben, and I discuss why chambers matter to small business and what his chamber is doing to get ready to host the ACCE’s convention next year. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Interview 4. Allen Hester, President and CEO of the Dyersburg, TN Chamber of Commerce, and I talk about how his chamber worked with federal and local authorities to help small businesses recover from the Tennessee floods of 2010.  Listen Live! Download, Too!

One Response to “Small businesses and the local chamber of commerce”

  1. 1
    Debi Joyce Says:

    Great post… I agree, an investment which reaps many many benefits….

    I am a small business consultant with our community college’s Small Business Center, and instruct a class called “How to Start / Stay in Business.

    One area I constantly tell my students is - the absolute necessity of being a part of your community by joining the Chambers and other associations. I invite each student who has a business to attend a Chamber function as my guest. At the function, I will introduce the student and their business, then leave it up to them to network with other members, and make the decison to be a part of the Chamber. I also have a commitment from the Chamber to allow my students, who complete the course, to join for the first year at half the annual dues. This opens such doors for them and teaches them the importance of being a part of their community.

    I cannot stress the importance of this to every business owner, whether micro, small or large. This is where you will be on top of what’s hapening in your community, which we know, will affect your business.

    It is not just a place to “get customers”, but the Chambers of Commerce is the place to have a voice, learn about your local economy, and network. Too many times, the network part is all one thinks about. Make sure you are a part, not just a member!!!!!

    Debi Joyce
    RCC Small Business Center
    Wentworth, NC

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