As the newest staff member at the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce, I have only begun to hear my share of the questions a Chamber receives:
From the need for more business information such as “Where might I find the current levy rates for the Bakerview Spur area?” or “What is the difference in price per square foot of available office space in Fairhaven versus downtown Bellingham?” to the absolutely insane requests such as “What day of the week are your Friday Morning Networking Breakfasts?” or “Does it rain there every day?”
As for the one question I hear more than any other, it is no contest. “So what does the Chamber actually do?” Good question.
Until recently, I, like many others I am finding out, believed it was the Chamber’s role in the community to bring businesses together to network and build business relationships. In fact, we have held 10 networking events that have brought more than 1,000 local business people together in the first quarter of 2007 alone. However, while we do provide networking opportunities, it is not the Chamber’s primary focus. The Bellingham/ Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s primary mission is creating a strong local economy.
This is the very reason Chambers were conceived of in the first place. In my conversations with local professionals and in recent surveys conducted by Charlton Research, business owners have said that Chambers must stick to, or get back to, focusing on the important work of creating a strong economy in our communities.
We can accomplish this with the following strategic objectives:
1)promote the community
2)provide networking opportunities
3)be an advocate for the business community before local, regional and state government
4)inform all business sectors on issues, initiatives and candidates that directly affect the business community and its ability to grow and prosper
In the months to come, we’ll get into further detail regarding these four strategic objectives set forth by the Chamber’s board of directors and staff. Your Chamber remains dedicated to helping local companies grow their business by taking the lead in programs and efforts that help create a strong local economy and make our community a great place to do business.
Drew Graham is the development director of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce and Industry.