Once upon a time, when a new business located in town, one of the first things they would do is join the local chamber of commerce. The chamber would hold a ribbon cutting. The local newspaper would take a photo. That business would remain a member of the chamber for as long as they were in business.
Times have changed.
Today, businesses rarely spend/invest money out of tradition. In fact, they have to be convinced of a return on their money — and membership in a chamber of commerce is no different.
So, what is the mission of a chamber? Here are the missions of a few locals, based on information from their websites:
The Bossier Chamber of Commerce is a private, non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote growth and development within the communities of Bossier and Caddo Parish. The Chamber promotes growth and development by utilizing its most valuable resource, its membership. — Bossier Chamber of Commerce, About Us
As stated in our by-laws, the purpose of the Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce shall be "to assist and encourage the advancement of the commercial, industrial, civic, and general interest of the City of Minden and the Parish of Webster,Louisiana." — Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce, From the President
The mission of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce is to promote economic prosperity, serve as a business advocate, and celebrate the achievements of our region. — Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, About Us
Promote. Advocate. Assist. These three are common missions of chambers everywhere. However, it is the specifics where many chambers differ.
Promote. Chambers are in the business of promotions. Generally, they promote their members through networking and sponsorship opportunities.
Chambers also promote themselves, a practice that is often misunderstood by their members. Through these self-promotion efforts, chambers of commerce not only help fund their operations, they strengthen their voice within their respective communities. The stronger their voice, the more their influence. With greater influence comes the ability to advocate on behalf of their members
Advocate. Business is constantly under fire these days. From taxes to unfair regulation and mandates, the costs of doing business have never been higher. Small businesses do not have the resources to lobby on their own behalf most of the time. That's where the advocacy arm of a chamber of commerce can help. Some employ lobbyists who can inform lawmakers regarding legislation.
Chambers of commerce can also initiate grassroots efforts for businesses to speak with "one voice" on important issues — locally, statewide and nationally.
Assist. We all need help to succeed — both in business and in life. Chambers of commerce offer help to their members in the the form of seminars, resources and connections to other members.
Not every chamber of commerce does everything well. That's where we come in.
Chambers of commerce are made up of a board of directors from the membership. These "volunteers" help direct the chamber leadership and staff. Involvement in the chamber is the very best way to improve it.
The Bottom Line. Join your local chamber of commerce. Utilize the resources of you chamber. Get involved to improve your chamber.
Like most things in this world, you will get out of a chamber of commerce what you put into it. That is truly the way to get a return on your investment of dues.
David Specht Jr. is President of Specht Newspapers, Inc. and Publisher of the Bossier Press-Tribune. View his blog at www.DavidASpecht.com.