We are often asked questions like: “What exactly does the Chamber of Commerce do?” I know when I was first hired at the Clare Chamber – that was my first question on training day too… I knew that the Chamber hosted community events and offered phone books for those of us that didn’t get them delivered to our homes, but I had no idea what all the job would entail.
As employees of the Chamber, we serve in jobs covering most of the disciplines found in other small businesses – communications, finance, marketing, customer service and event planning; additional responsibilities include advocacy, providing educational opportunities, serving as an information hub for the community, acting as Public Notaries, etc. Our mission is to “promote quality of life through the economic, educational and cultural development of Mecosta County”.
In general, Chamber missions vary, but we all tend to focus to some degree on five primary goals: Building communities to which residents, visitors and investors are attracted; Promoting those communities; Striving to ensure future prosperity via a pro-business climate; Representing the unified voice of the employer community; and Reducing transactional friction through well-functioning networks. We share a common ambition for sustained prosperity of our communities, built on thriving employers.
The Chamber, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is an “Association of merchants and businessmen for the promotion of commercial interests in their community”. Businesses join the Chamber by paying annual dues (based on the number of people they employee) and are, in turn, listed in our directories, on our smartphone app, linked to our website, referred to inquiring parties, offered business-related, educational opportunities, provided numerous networking opportunities and are given a variety of other promotional opportunities throughout the year, amongst many other benefits.
We do host community events and encourage businesses to participate in order to network and further promote their products and/or services to the general public. The Chamber also offers monthly Rise and Shine and Business After Hours events (informal socials) so that business owners and their employees can interact with each other and develop relationships outside the workplace.
The Chamber offers educational opportunities that pertain to businesses and seek to arm business owners with tools that help them thrive in an ever-changing economy. The Chamber partners with organizations, such as Connect Michigan, The Michigan Chamber of Commerce and The Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM), to add value as well. SBAM provides all Chamber members with a comprehensive list of additional benefits, such as an on-line calculator to figure what the Affordable Care Act is going to cost them. SBAM also provides speakers that update our members on a variety of timely issues. The state Chamber acts as a voice for businesses in the political arena, amongst a wide variety of other things. Connect Michigan aided in the Broadband certification process and continues to provide insights into furthering our adoption and usage to ensure our members have the ability to compete in a global marketplace.
The Chamber has numerous committees that are continuously working to increase value for our members. Besides the committees that are in place for each of our annual events, we also have Ambassadors that serve as the face of the Chamber, an educational programming committee that organizes speaking engagements and political forums, a Leadership Mecosta advisory Board, separate sub-committees that are charged with completing specific portions of our strategic plan and several others.
The Chamber offers programs geared towards the community as well, one of the most popular being the Hot Deals. Hot Deals are on-line coupons offered by member businesses that anyone can access easily. Members are also encouraged to offer discounts to other members with our Member-to-Member program, which is basically the same thing but only offered to fellow members.
Because the Chamber works closely with so many different entities, the lines often become blurred in people’s minds as to which entity is responsible for which duties. For example, the Chamber does not function in the same manner as the Better Business Bureau; while we do offer credibility to businesses and occasionally field complaints, there is nothing we can do to handle conflict resolution, other than let the business know that we received a complaint and offer suggestions on ways to rectify the situation. We have been asked to serve as mediators in rare instances but would generally refer them to the BBB.
Another entity that is often confused with the Chamber is the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau; while the Chamber is not specifically charged with attracting tourists to the area, we do assist in that endeavor because of the positive impact that tourism has on our community and our businesses. The primary function of the CVB is to bring people into the county and it is up to all of us to make their stay pleasant and entice them to shop, visit again or even relocate here.
The Chamber also assists with economic development prospects whenever possible but that is the primary focus of the Mecosta County Economic Development Corporation so many of those inquiries are referred to that office in order to be handled by someone that specializes in that area.
A common misconception is that the Chamber is a governmental entity but we are actually a 501 (C)(6) non-profit organization and while we work closely with the Downtown Business Association, various townships, cities and the county, we are not charged with public service tasks, our role is primarily promotion and advocacy for the business community.
There is an old adage in the chamber world: “If you’ve seen one chamber, you’ve seen one.” In all cases, the whole of a chamber of commerce is greater than the sum of its parts, programs, people and participants. The Chamber of Commerce is a catalyst…a common vehicle through which the mutual interests of all segments of the business community work together for the common good of the total community. The Chamber’s goal is the continued growth and prosperity of Mecosta County, and we do whatever is necessary to keep this area’s economic conditions such that people will be willing to risk their resources in the hopes of making a profit. Your success is important to the health of the entire community.
If you would like to be involved in any of programs or events, please contact us and as always, if there is anything we can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask!