Chambers should utilize the momentum for rejuvenation that accompanies the New Year to reaffirm their relationships with local governing bodies in the name of member service and retention. Executing brand awareness campaigns that refresh ties with the entities that can help Chamber members gain an extra foothold in a competitive marketplace will pay dividends.
The Flint Genesee County Chamber of Commerce used its networking prowess to link my employer with local officials at the outset of our most recent business development efforts. We purchased a vacant facility that had lied dormant for three years in the main thoroughfare of a region once known for commerce, now in the midst of a recovery following the downturn that began in the late 80s.
Economic development representatives from the Chamber learned about our efforts during the fact-finding conversations they hosted with us during the member on-boarding process. Noticing an opportunity to add value and make an impact, the Chamber tracked our progress on project design and property acquisition. Shortly after closing and prior to us beginning the remodel, the Chamber put together a meeting with the City of Burton, including the mayor and assessor. The conversation lead to the city drafting a resolution that established a commercial redevelopment district for our parcel, effectively freezing a large percentage of our property taxes for a decade.
Considering the multi-million dollar investment we were making in the rehab, the city’s support is going to allow us to redirect tax payments into staff development and facility enhancements.
The Chamber’s ability to identify an opportunity to serve a new member combined with its established relationships with government officials throughout the region ultimately resulted in the City of Burton approving the proposal to establish the redevelopment district – cementing our belief in membership.
The lessons are:
- New members, and established ones, do not often think to ask for help from Chambers because, frankly, business moves at a pace where it is challenging to find the space to recognize opportunities to use member benefits
- Chambers have to identify nuggets during conversations that, if mined, can develop into sustainable partnership opportunities
- Chambers, with their unique role in communities, can provide a benefit – access and influence – that few businesses can foster on their own
Having a guide to help a business navigate through local governance and politics is critically important to members, or potential members, that are expanding operations. Teaching businesses how to capitalize on economic development programs, and how to build credibility with elected officials, is a skill all Chambers should hone in 2019.