Chamber myths debunked
Megan Roberts, Executive Director, Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce
There is a saying in the Chamber industry that, “When you’ve seen one Chamber, you’ve seen one Chamber.” No two Chambers are exactly the same, and although some have similar programs and operations, each carries their own values and characteristics true to their region and community.
Our new mission is to be business based and community minded through partnership, outreach and promotion. When tempting ideas or brilliant projects come our way, we have to act with a tiger’s eye focus on four priorities of increasing local sales, membership, volunteerism and legislative awareness. We sometimes have to re-think our old ways to break from tradition, making changes that don’t come easily.
Throw all of our recent changes, mission, priorities, and reorganization into a big mixing bowl and you might get what I call “Chamber Myth Soup.” These myths are honest misperceptions due to a changing time and transition in the Chamber of Commerce and I am here to debunk them.
Chamber Myth One: The Chamber’s sole function is to promote the community of Atlantic and provide fun things to do in town. Although promotion is a part of what we do, it is not the only thing we do. We are business based meaning we are here because independent business owners want to make business strong in the greater Atlantic Area and work together to do so.
We have to stretch beyond promotion to add direct value or “Roi” (our Chamber Mascot, Return On Investment) to our membership. Our purpose includes partnership, outreach, and promotion because those are all three important.
Chamber Myth Two: The Chamber is run by a couple of staff members and a few key business owners. The Chamber is a network of more than 250 business owners and professionals who serve on committees, boards and task forces to create policy and oversee the vision for the business community. The supporting staff is there to help lead and implement those policies and visions.
Progress happens best when business and industry leaders bring an idea forward and take ownership in implementing it. For example, industry specific marketing co-ops can strengthen marketing efforts to reach beyond the local market. Leadership training, legislative awareness and business development are tools all businesses can benefit from. Teaming up to bring in quality speakers is more beneficial than each business seeking those things on their own. It is a collection of independent businesses that make us strong.
Chamber Myth Three (my personal fave): The Chamber doesn’t do anything for me. If you are a business, consider that in 2012 the Chamber as an organization invested more than $25,000 in additional marketing promotions, tourism,and activities that brought people into the area to eat, sleep, shop, and conduct business. The Chamber also provided relocation information to more than 200 individuals and families and assisted several new small businesses with start up in Atlantic. The Chamber hosted technology workshops and provided countless social events for members, non-members, community, and young professionals. Consider the network of individuals tied together through the Chamber. Doing business is all about relationships and being a member of the Chamber provides you a connection with more than 250 other businesses.
If you are a resident of Atlantic, having a local service person work on your home or you do a little shopping for shoes, clothing, or groceries the Chamber is doing something for you. The businesses of the Chamber are here to provide you with your daily needs and recreation. They are the ones providing you with entertainment like AtlanticFest and the Lighted Christmas Parade. They are also the ones employing you and your spouse so you can put food on the table.
There you have it. Myths debunked. The Chamber businesses in the greater Atlantic Area may be different than any other Chamber or they may be exactly the same, but they do value partnership, outreach and promotion. They have chosen to not only focus on building strong businesses but on building a strong community as well.