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What is a chamber of commerce?

A chamber of commerce is a local organization designed to promote and protect a community's business interests. The chamber of commerce can be local, regional, state, national, or global. The first chamber of commerce dates back to 1599 in France. Chambers have been (and continue to be) a constant part of civilization to this very day.

Over 13,000 chambers of commerce exist worldwide- each one designed to address the needs of a business within that local community. Chambers can also be referred to as a 'board of trade.' And usually consists of business owners who share a particular locale where they operate their businesses. Elected members gather to discuss which policies to promote and which to discourage.

There are a few incentives chambers use to further their promotions. For instance, an area may win the bid for a new international airport to be placed there. This same area would then attract companies from all over the world to settle there. In effect, this provides business and opportunity to the area's citizens they otherwise would not have without that airport. Once the airport has been established, the business community could then offer deals and discounts to local residents. This is one of many ways to bolster the area's local community and economy.

Another incentive for chambers is listing their businesses in the chamber directory. This makes them more visible to the communities they serve. Depending on the level of the chamber, members also lobby to lawmakers and government officials about business-friendly policies.

The chamber of commerce is the mechanism used to address the current issues with statesmen and lawmakers of that area. While they do not directly influence election outcomes, chambers still gather with elected officials and seek ways to provide jobs and opportunity to the area's residents.

While the types of chambers of commerce vary in size, they have five primary goals they strive to achieve:

1. Build communities

First, chambers aim to build communities. The collaborative effort of area businesses strengthens their citizens with jobs and opportunities that improve their quality of life. It is a symbiotic relationship between business and citizen. To cultivate this network of businesses' service to the community, elected statesmen will enact laws to attract more businesses to that area.

In turn, this provides economic prosperity to those who work in that specific business industry. This economic development helps to build communities as well as benefits the local citizens.

2. Promote those they serve

Second, chambers work to promote those they serve. Businesses that settle in a particular area may offer discount retail sales on a federal holiday, non-profit outreach services to assist the needy, charity drives to pay for special interest causes, and employment training programs to help people start working. All of these events are designed to enrich the lives of the area's citizens.

3. Outreach to future members

Third, chambers enable businesses reach out to future generations. This, in turn, furthers prosperity to the city, years after businesses have settled there. These can range from guest speakers at school talking to children about their profession, to promoting company internships for recent college graduates.

These can be career development programs that help young people decide what they want to do after school. They can be networking groups that help people find jobs. They may also be local job fairs where businesses open up to the city residents about the available opportunities.

4. Have a unified voice

Fourth, chambers represent the unified voice of the area's business owners. Chambers are the 'go-to' for new residents and new companies looking to settle in the area. If there are interests on either side, the chambers provide them the essential information on how to find work (or in the employer's case, how to do business there).

At a gathering between businesses, citizens, and elected officials, they address the current issues affecting the area. Likewise, they join together to solve those problems. Composed mostly of private-sector employers, they are looked to for new ways to improve their location. They are also counted on to improve the lives of the area's citizens.

5. Reduce friction amongst businesses

Lastly, chambers of commerce help reduce friction between various businesses in the chosen location. They keep employers from different backgrounds current and up to date with upcoming events and occasions that may or may not directly serve business interests. For example, a world-class hotel may use its ballroom to host an investing seminar. From there, the visiting company would look to recruit financial experts where such an event is taking place.

Chambers of commerce help to organize these events and relay their purpose to the residents who are interested in the subject of starting a financial career. These involve interaction between several local businesses and entities found within chambers of commerce.

Types of Memberships

Internally, chambers of commerce rely on paid memberships of both private and public sector employees and employers. Members can range from dozens to thousands of businesses. Their types may also vary (city chambers, County chambers, minority chambers, special interest Chambers, etc.).

Unlike governments, chambers lack a formal ruling infrastructure to determine how they are to operate. They hire an elected board of directors to set policies and procedures within the chamber itself. They decide how it will run, who will run it, how they will serve their area, and what news to relay to their area.

Chambers of commerce are different from trade associations and the Better Business Bureau. Even though members are unofficially bound together, they do not run under a formal agreement- one that dictates their method of operations. Members in a chamber of commerce seek to reap the benefits as long as they keep investing their dues in the organization.

While these entities have different purposes, only companies make up the chamber membership- not individuals. These companies may also join multiple local chambers to expand their outreach to the area's citizens. Also, chamber dues are determined by the company's size, not the number of people involved in it.

Formation and Organization

Why does an area have so many chambers? There are many reasons for this. Changing circumstances, new markets, population fluctuations, diverse ambitions, and employer needs are the greatest of these reasons.

For instance, recent federal budget cuts to space exploration impacts NASA locations across the US. Like the domino effect, this can drive down housing costs and force unemployed people to relocate. The money those people would spend at restaurants and gas stations also would take a hit. Fewer jobs would be available. More places would close due to lack of interest.

Chambers must constantly adjust to current living conditions of their locations. Opportunities once available change, increase or discontinue after several years.

Structurally, chambers operate as non-profit entities. In the US, these are listed as tax-exempt, 501 (c)(3) organizations. As such, they have the power to represent their members in public policy debates. This means under state and federal tax law, they can create a motion for hiring cost and deduction expense reforms if necessary.

However, there are strict regulations for lobbyist funding- money that's used to push for passage of a new law. They may lobby on proposed legislation and take certain positions that affect their communities.

Members of a chamber of commerce are not politicians themselves, but they often speak in civic gatherings about what is in the best interests of the general public (as it relates to the actions of businesses. One might call it the business voice of a town hall meeting.

Up to 100 people make up a chamber of commerce. Most members are much fewer with a basic budget of about half a million dollars. Like employers, chamber members are mostly private-sector workers in diverse fields (finance, trade skills, small business, large enterprises, customer service, event planning, to name a few). Some specialize in more specific areas within these fields, while others provide government agency staffing/recruiting on a contract basis.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the chamber of commerce serves many purposes for the betterment of a community. Its members are elected to serve the public interest, some through government agencies, more of them through the private sector. Either the land's resources or a unique landmark placed onto the land- these things enable chambers to entice businesses to set up and create jobs to its residents.

When businesses succeed, all its people share in that success. That is the primary function of the chamber of commerce. It is there to help businesses thrive. This creates continued enrichment and prosperity of the area and its people. As companies move forward, the chamber reaches out to the next generation for the opportunity to "carry the torch", that is, to propel the community forward.

Active members of the chamber seek to achieve this end every passing year. The chamber of commerce, with its extensive place in society, continues to be the link between people and businesses.

From the early medieval days to the present to the future- the chamber of commerce continues to find new ways to empower civilization. Changing markets and life circumstances remain constant. A chamber of commerce adjusts to these things. They will play many vital roles in the fostering of cities, regions, and nations for many years to come.

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