Many discussions have been had in recent months about the “relevancy” of Chambers today… TOO many conversations if you ask me. Chambers of Commerce are ABSOLUTELY relevant today. While the storyline for those who would disagree relies heavily on the notion that younger entrepreneurs can accomplish most of what a Chamber does…specifically helping members meet others in their community…more easily or less expensively using social media and other online resources, networking is just one facet of what a Chamber does. The real problem is that Chambers are notoriously bad at telling their own stories. When networking events are the focus, Chambers can look obsolete. But when a Chamber can identify what they truly bring to the community, and can communicate that out, they become more than just relevant…they become VITAL! In most Chambers across the country, only about 8-12% of total membership even attend networking events and about half that for ribbon-cuttings. These are CLEARLY functions that Chambers make available to those who benefit from them, but they are certainly not among the top priorities on most Chambers’ program of work.

We work with Chambers across the country who lead the fight in their community to keep military bases up to strength, fighting against troop reductions, base closures, and now sequestration loses…many times to the tune of $1 billion or more in economic impact to the local economy. Some take the lead on tourism and ensure that people keep visiting (and spending in) the region. ALL Chambers fight for the needs of “business” in their region. Think of all the “Mom & Pop” business owners, who can’t get to a networking event because they’re too busy keeping the lights on and the register ringing. They could be crippled by a simple sign ordinance that city council might want to impose. And while they’re running their business, the Chamber Executive is the one battling on their behalf.

When Chambers start telling THOSE stories and leading from their strengths instead of allowing the conversation to be about networking events and ribbon-cuttings, people will truly understand how important their local Chamber of Commerce is, and perhaps we can stop debating the “relevancy” of the modern Chamber.