A couple of years ago I was in a meeting where a representative of CenterState CEO, the city of Syracuse chamber of commerce, was talking about what the chamber had to offer to businesses in general. I stated a position that I felt the direction of the Chamber had gone more towards larger businesses and the things they were interested in more than the core of the organization, which is small businesses (around 98%), and how I found that more often than not a smaller local chamber seemed to be addressing my needs more. He stated that’s what local chambers of commerce were for; pretty much case closed at that point.

I happen to be a member of the Greater Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, and for the most part I find that it does try its hardest to address the needs of small businesses more than the larger city chamber. It really encourages its members to use the services of other members first before going outside the area. Something we’ve talked about more recently is going along the lines of what an organization called SyracuseFirst does, that being to find ways to encourage people to buy locally, whether through incentives, education, or advertising.

Of course, one of the problems I have is that most of my business is out of town, and that’s a shame. We all have to make money from somewhere, and the bulk of my money comes from outside sources. Another recent discussion we were having was how hard it is for some of us to be accepted as being, well, legitimate and competent by our own community, which often reaches outside to being in someone to work for them. As a health care consultant, I’m often dismayed to see organizations like Crouse Hospital totally ignore local consultants for the services of companies outside the area, as if we have no competence at all.

Maybe one of the issues is publicity, however. Maybe those of us that have small businesses haven’t totally figured out how to market ourselves to these large organizations; we certainly haven’t totally figured out how to even market to each other. I think local chambers can help.

I will acknowledge that they probably all have problems with funding, though. Local chambers try to be very active and create a lot of opportunities for all of us to network with each other. I believe all of them have an executive director of some sort, along with a board of directors. Directors volunteer; executive directors need to be paid, and in doing my own calculations I’m betting they’re not all paid that well. That’s a shame because my expectation is that it’s more than just a job for them. They’re expected to recruit, represent at openings, try to help with networking, office work, answer phones, travel for meetings, etc. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone could get me to take the job.

Still, my belief is that smaller chambers could help everyone out, and it’s at least worth the time and effort to look into one, or even a neighborhood association, which handles some of the same types of things.

I keep wondering why some of these organizations, like the Liverpool Chamber, add “greater” to their name, though I’ll admit that it sounds really impressive. Regardless, though I have no idea how many local chambers there are, here’s a short list of some of them you can check out:
 

 

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