Tag Archive for 'Chamber of Commerce'

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!

Hanging out with those wild and crazy Chamber execs

As I write this blog post I’m in the beautiful city of Raleigh, in the great state of North Carolina, attending the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) annual convention. Once a year professional chamber leaders descend on a different American city to whoop it up on behalf of chambers, learn how to be a better chamber leader, how to work with neighboring chambers and how to do a better job of helping their chamber members. And since 90% of the membership of the typical local chamber of commerce is small business, most of which have less than 25 employees, by extension, these folks are also whooping it up on behalf of my heroes, small business owners. Ergo, where else would I be?

Recently, in this blog and on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I’ve written and talked about my respect and admiration for local chambers of commerce. But when you see chamber professionals gaggled up in one setting, like an ACCE convention, you see what a supportive and motivating family they are to each other. From this vantage point, you can appreciate the dedication of these folks as they talk about their local issues and challenges, while launching or participating in initiatives that have a national impact. For example:

1. A national program to help chambers be more effective with social media so they can ultimately help their small business members with this hot topic.
2. A national initiative to help chambers help their members “go green.”
3. A national program to teach school children leadership skills based on a plan our friend, Stephen Covey, talks about in his new book, “The Leader in Me.”

While here, I’ve met chamber leaders from around the world, such as Vietnam, Cayman Islands and Norway; all with the same motivations and passion as their U.S. counterparts, and all encouraging relationships and trade between countries. When I talk with these people I think of the words of 19th century French economist, Frederick Bastiat, who said, “When goods cross borders, armies don’t!” The possibility of achieving a peace dividend is yet another reason to admire chamber leaders.

Recently, I’ve conducted several interviews with chamber leaders: Steve Millard, with the Cleveland, OH chamber (COSE), and I talked about the social media project. Harvey Schmitt, with Raleigh Chamber, and I talked about hosting the ACCE event. Aaron Nelson, Chapel Hill Chamber talked with me about the GreenPlus program. And I interviewed Wil Pineau, CEO of the Cayman Islands Chamber and Lars Legernes, with the Olso, Norway Chamber, about their countries. Take a few minutes to listen to these world-class leaders, and be sure to leave your own thoughts.

For Stephen Covey’s interview:
For Steve Millard’s interview:
For Harvey Schmitt’s interview:
For Aaron Nelson’s interview:
For Wil Pineau’s interview:
For Lars Legernes’ interview:

Why you should be a member of your local chamber of commerce

Are you a member of your local chamber of commerce? If not, you should be. In case you think I’m being nosy and/or presumptuous, I’ve been a member of mine since 1977.

Community growth only happens when constituent groups, like business, politics, education, the arts, sports, neighborhoods, etc., have a place to state their interests, work out their differences and pull together for the common good. Your local chamber of commerce is the only organization in your community that can create the venue where discussions can be conducted that cut across all of the emotional and ideological boundaries that get erected over time in a community.

“What’s the chamber ever done for me?” you might ask. Well, the chamber IS you. Your local chamber isn’t part of the local government; it’s a private non-profit organization founded and nurtured by local leaders, just like you. There are hired chamber professionals who staff the office and coordinate the work, but most of what happens in your chamber is attributed to a local citizen who volunteers to help the chamber – and, therefore, the community and marketplace – be all it can be.

To paraphrase a great American, ask not what your chamber can do for you, but rather, what you can do for your chamber. I believe being a chamber member is the most important investment I make in my community. And as far as the financial commitment is concerned, I think you’ll be surprised, maybe shocked, at how small it is.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about my devotion to chambers, how they work and why I think you should be a member. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to my thoughts. And be sure to leave your comments.

Don’t call it small business economic stimulus if it’s really just more pork

So, we have a new Congress and administration who are tasked with strengthening our financial system and economy which, on many fronts, is in dire straights. With that in mind, the new House of Representatives delivered to the Senate for their consideration an $818 billion bill that is its answer to economic stimulus, called the “American Recovery and Re-investment Act.” It doesn’t take long, nor a degree in economics, to see that this bill could never be mistaken for a stimulus package and, sadly, is nothing but a pork-barrel spending spree. With interest, it’s generally accepted that this bill will reach $1.3 TRILLION - that’s right, with a “T.”

Wouldn’t a reasonable person think that a stimulus package would be front-loaded to have its intended effect in 2009 and 2010? But according to a Congressional report, only $26 billion would be spent in 2009 and $110 billion in 2010. That’s less than 17% in the first two years. Some of the money in this bill would be spent as late as 2019. Shouldn’t a stimulus bill be designed with a greater sense of urgency?

And wouldn’t that same reasonable person think the goal would be to actually stimulate the economy by encouraging employers to keep their employees and create new jobs? So, what does the bill provide for the largest job creation sector in the economy, small businesses? Primarily an extension of existing tax deductions, like the ability to expense up to $250,000 of capital items in one year instead of depreciating them over time. Plus, less than a handful of other tax provisions, none of which will free up the credit market or encourage a business to hire or at least not lay off. That’s it for small business - more of what we already had.

But there is $550 billion in NEW spending (a/k/a Pork) and $90 billion for infrastructure, most of which won’t hit the economy in the next 12 months. Then there’s $87 billion for Medicaid and $79 billion for schools, just to name a few. Now, reasonable people can disagree about whether this money should be spent on these things, but no reasonable person could argue that this money will stimulate the economy very much, and certainly not in the next critical 12-18 months.

At this time, the bill is in the Senate where it will be modified to produce that body’s version. Then it will go to the Conference Committee for final editing before going to the President. Let’s hope that somewhere along the way those who understand the difference between pork and stimulus will prevail and the new bill will have more of the latter and less of the former. Otherwise, we’ll be better off with no bill.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I discussed this issue with several public policy experts who are members of my Brain Trust, including Ray Keating, Chief Economist for the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council (sbecouncil.org); Giovanni Coratolo, Director of Small Business Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce(uschamber.com); and Rich Galen, creator of the cyber-column, Mullings.com and political strategist (Republican). Here are the links to each of those interviews. Don’t miss what these smart men have to say. Also below is a link to my individual thoughts on the so-called economic stimulus package.
For Ray Keating:
For Giovanni Coratolo:
For Rich Galen:
For Jim Blasingame:

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