Chamber of Commerces Are Outdated in Small Towns


Does the Chamber of Commerce really accomplish anything in small towns here in Northern British Columbia? Perhaps a Chamber Manager, Director or staunch Chamber supporter will chime in and see this as an opportunity to overcome the common objections of the small business owner and, at the same time, promote the efforts of their local Chamber of Commerce.

Honestly, what does the Chamber of Commerce do? Our tours of Northern BC, revealed that we're not the only one asking that question. Our straw poll is by no means scientific but the general consensus is that the Chambers are outdated entities. At the very least, they need to reinvent themselves.

Our conclusion? The Chamber of Commerce has but one main focus: to increase membership. Plain and simple, more members mean more money. Presumably, after staffing and other overhead costs are met, the additional revenue allows the chamber to run programs or host visitors to the community whose expertise can benefit the membership. But, is that really being done?

For the prospective Chamber of Commerce member, let's consider some common Chamber promotions:

1. Guest Speaker Series: The Chamber Luncheon is a common offering of Chamber's big and small. Luncheons are organized around a guest speaker who may or may not be paid for his or her efforts. Political candidates always generate a strong turn-out. Regardless of the speaker's background, we've found that such luncheons are seldom tailored to the local community. I liken it to the touring rock band that ends the concert with "Thanks! You guys rock!" The audience might feel good but, in the end, there is no legitimate take-away for the small business owner.

2. Financial Benefits: Many chambers list long-distance savings, lower fuel costs, banking discounts and reduced hotel rates as benefits of membership. Are you serious? The online world is built for bargain shoppers, so choose a brown-bag lunch over a chamber lunch and learn how you can travel for less using hotwire, get insurance for less at Canadian Direct Insurance or bank for free using HSBC's new "Business Direct" account. If you don't have the computer skills, buy your co-worker a meal and turn lunch into a productive "lunch and learn" session. Offline and closer to home, save gas using the Coop (self-service) Cardlock system. Sure, you'll have to become a member of the Vanderhoof Coop Association but, then again, you'll receive a rebate once a year based on your annual purchases. You'll be impressed with the savings.