I’m always surprised when I hear chamber colleagues say, “I don’t do economic development.” Do they think that because they’re not a part of their organization’s economic development department? Or maybe it’s because they think their chamber is too small to focus on economic development activities? Whatever the reason, I’m quick to correct them because it’s not true; economic development really is something we all do, no matter your position within your organization or your community size. What we’re doing as chambers of commerce all over the country all – in some way or another – relates back to economic development.
As chambers, everything we do is about growing our communities, increasing job opportunities, and developing and expanding our businesses. I’d like to take a moment to explore a few areas of work done by chambers that aren’t typically thought of as economic development initiatives to show you how it all relates.
Leadership – Leadership programs and symposiums are just a few of the ways chambers help identify, inspire, and strengthen individuals within the community. These people often take on leadership roles in various civic and community groups, which have the desire and ability to shape the future of the community. They become community leaders who play a vital role in attracting new businesses to the area.
Advocacy – Chambers of commerce often work with member businesses and community partners in an effort to act as liaisons with elected officials regarding legislative and governmental affairs. The issues addressed range in subject matter but are always for the betterment of the business. As chambers work to lobby for their businesses, they are ultimately helping to retain those businesses in their communities.
Networking – Opportunities for members to network are abundant at chambers. They’re vital to what we do because they allow business-to-business networking, which opens doors and creates relationships that grow business. Whether it’s a golf tournament, an educational lunch, or a weekly networking meeting, all of the events chambers facilitate should be aimed at connecting people, which of course, promotes business growth.
The point I’m trying to make is that we all do economic development – it’s why chambers exist and it’s what makes chambers so valuable to their communities. No matter what role you play in your organization, what you’re doing to help sustain community and business growth and expansion is important and does make a difference.