Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Chambers of Commerce Make Good Business Sense

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Chambers of Commerce Make Good Business Sense

Article excerpt

If the recession has ended, as many economists believe, who is at the wheel of recovery? You might think it's the city, county, state, and/or federal government. And in a way, that's true, through, for instance, their various tax credits and related stimulus plans. But for the most part, it's local businesses. They have a vested interest in the community; provide jobs for your neighbors, friends, family, maybe even you; generate revenue for the area - and advance their cause through the chamber of commerce (C. of C).

Local business leaders turn most of all to their peers in the C. of C. because that's where ideas for revitalization can be exchanged, visions of growth and prosperity restored, and steps in strategy taken.

Historical beginnings

C. of Cs have existed in the U.S. for more than two centuries. The New York Chamber, founded on April 5, 1768, is the oldest institution of its kind in the world. There were many mercantile associations in Europe before its advent, but they functioned under strict government control. They were not, like the New York Chamber, absolutely free of official regulation, free to express opinion and, more importantly, free to act on matters related to public policy and welfare.

Just as with today's C of Cs, the 20 members who came together on that historic April evening in 1 768 were recognized leaders of the community in its social, political and commercial activities. A Chronicle of One Hundred & Fifty Years: The Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, Joseph Bucklin Bishop's 1918 account, summarizes the organization as "a body of public-spirited citizens, ready at all times to uphold and advance good government, to secure justice and fair dealing among men, to cultivate and maintain a sound public opinion and a true conception of patriotism - as a genuine moral force in the land." The august body, Bishop states, "has throughout its career exerted a powerful influence in support of those agencies which make for progress and civilization."

Lasting impact

There are roughly 3,000 C of Cs in the U.S. with at least one full-time employee and there are thousands more as volunteer entities, according to the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE). C of Cs range from a few dozen members apiece to more than 20,000. Members share an ambition of sustainable prosperity for their community. Most are ardent proponents of the free market system and resist public sector attempts to direct private sector enterprise and investment.

C of C missions vary, but they all tend to focus on the same primary goals:

* Build a community to which residents, visitors and investors are attracted

* Promote the community's strengths through marketing and economic development activities

* Advocate a pro-business legal and regulatory environment

* Represent the unified voice of community employers on key business issues such as taxes and worker compensation

* Reduce friction between public policy and private sector interests via wellfunctioning networks, taskforces and committees

Local businesses pay C of C membership dues, typically $100 to $500 annually, that are often considered an investment in the organization and, by extension, the community. …

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