What is a Chamber Of Commerce?
Wherever there is a Chamber of Commerce, that question is sure to get asked.
Some people think it's a bank; others, a branch of government. Obviously neither is correct, but it shouldn't surprise you to know that the vast majority of residents, of whatever town or city, think that it exists to help them solve their current problem or crisis.
Most communities in Canada have a Chamber of Commerce, and those who belong to it take great pride in their membership. Those who don't often ask Chamber members why they belong.
And the answer is always the same. It's because they are proud of being part of an organization that plays such a key role in building the community.
Which begs the question - "WHAT IS THAT ROLE?"
The official answer is: "A Chamber of Commerce is a voluntary organization established to promote civic, commercial, industrial and agricultural progress in the community it serves, and to work for sound legislation and efficient administration of the community and at all levels of government."
But the simple version says so much more.
The Chamber exists to make the community a better place in which to live. Period.
A Chamber of Commerce provides an avenue for the business people in the community to create a positive business environment. It also provides the local business sector with a vehicle to promote their community to the outside world - either for tourism or business investment purposes - and helps people find their way when they arrive.
The Chamber provides opportunity for those people who create local jobs and drive the local economy, to work with government and the public to build an even better community.
It works closely with its community government. The provincial Chamber acts as an umbrella organization to lobby the provincial government on issues of mutual concern to all Chambers in the province, and the Canadian Chamber serves a similar role at the national level.
The Chamber speaks for the business community at public hearings, to the media and behind closed doors. It is the recognized voice of business.
When a business joins the Chamber of Commerce it can learn about raising issues with government that affect business, and add their voice to the Chamber's efforts to address those issues. Equally important is that the Chamber can then support the business person on the issues that affect his or her business.
When a business joins the Chamber, it helps make the community - and the business - healthy and prosperous.
Because Chambers of Commerce are business organizations there are less altruistic benefits to membership.
There are excellent networking opportunities at monthly luncheons and other special events.
A Chamber provides businesspeople the opportunity to get to know their peers in the local community. They can interact with them, make contacts, and give their business greater exposure to those who are its likely clientele.
Chamber newsletters keep businesses up-to-date on what is happening. Not just on government issues, but on community events and Chamber activities. They also provide an excellent avenue for advertising directly to the most influential businesses in the community. Because Chambers of Commerce are business organizations they provide a number of benefits strictly geared to the business sector.
One of the key services is training. They provide learning opportunities and seminars that help small business to operate more efficiently. Whether it's computers, accounting, or human resources, the Chamber can, at the very least, point a business in the right direction to get the information it needs.
The collective nature of a Chamber allows access to tangible financial benefits as well. Group insurance programs are an excellent example. A group of businesses accessing the CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE GROUP INSURANCE PLAN for such things as medical, dental, disability and prescription drugs, can obtain much better rates than an individual business. The greater the number of participants, the more stable the risk for the insurer - hence the better the rates for participating businesses and organizations.
Another benefit is the preferred merchant rates on major credit cards that the Chamber can provide its members. A business can save a great deal of money over the course of a year when it gets a rate of return on credit card sales that is better than if it did not belong to the Chamber.
There are many other benefits, of course. Chambers of Commerce are always looking for ways to provide better services to their membership.
Which brings us back to our original question - "WHY JOIN THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE?"
It seems clear that there are far more reasons to join the Chamber than there are not to.
In the long run, however, whether you join to have an impact in the community or to gain more direct benefits, it seems that belonging to the CHAMBER OF COMMERCE is simply good business.