Oakland Chamber Network Learns From National Trends

Oakland Chamber Network Learns From National Trendsgallowaycollens1

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Jan. 27, 2014)

Collaborating to improve the environment for business success is the core strength of Chambers of Commerce in general, and the Oakland Chamber Network doubles up on that principle by bringing 27 local Chambers together. At their annual meeting on Jan. 22, OCN Board Members heard from John Carlson, Director of Professional Development at American Chamber of Commerce Executives, based in Virgina.

Carlson presented the group with survey results charting Chamber Trends.  “It’s easy for us to be too focused on our own communities,” Carlson said, emphasizing the need to learn from what groups around the country are doing.

One challenge Chambers face is that other development-based groups continue to grow, such as DDAs (Downtown Development Authorities), networking groups, and other government-based economic OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdevelopment programs.  Some Chambers see these as competition, while others see them as opportunities to partner and strengthen the work they do.

Carlson asked Chamber leaders to look at the national trends and compare them to where their specific organization was.  294 Chambers of all sizes participated in the survey, and the results were broken down into categories.  Most Chambers in the OCN fall in the small chamber category, working with under $450,000 a year.

The survey found that small Chambers have the highest retention rates, keeping about 87% of their members from year to year.  The dues OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAaverage $293 per member, and the revenue averages $633 per member.  While that number may seem high, the reality is that most small chambers also spend $640 per member.

Revenue comes from multiple sources, including membership dues, events and sponsorship opportunities. Product sales account for 2% of revenue, but may be an area where growth is possible.

One innovative idea came out of Norfolk, Nebraska.  There the Norfolk Jim Shaffer ad EDITEDArea Chamber of Commerce created an online and print magazine called Norfolk Now.  Advertising sales bring extra revenue into the Chamber, and the publication helps to promote local businesses.

Another interesting idea came from Glenwood Springs, Colorado. While Chambers are traditionally membership-only, The Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce decided that every business would be given a free basic membership.  This allowed the Chamber to be more effective at engaging the business community, and they were able to create tiers of membership, with increasing benefits at each level.  By changing their model they were able to increase their revenue by $38,000 the first year alone. Their social media presence also increased, with over 500,000 likes on Facebook.  The group also has a stronger voice OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAin collaborations with the city.  “They weren’t afraid to try something new,” Carlson said.  “They knew they could always go back to the old way if they needed to.”  But with the increased involvement and success, it’s likely that the Glenwood Springs model will stay, and be followed by other Chambers through the country.  They were even awarded the 2013 Chamber of the Year award by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives.

While increasing membership and revenue is important, Carlson also nicholas-schrock-allstatespoke about the importance of using Chambers to help the overall growth of communities.  In 2008 the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce in Kentucky was hit by the same economic hardships as everyone in the area.  “They lost a lot of jobs,” Carlson said. “So they thought ‘How can we create a better voice, and bring our Chambers together to get more jobs?”  That Chamber reached out to others in the area and formed the Western Kentucky Regional Chamber Alliance.  The Alliance set three priorities to help revitalize their area.  The first was the development of I-69 to bring transportation through the heart of Kentucky.  The second was the Inland Waterways Project, which improved the inland marine transportation system, including expanding the locks and improving river ports.  The third was to lobby sidebar01sponsorfor lifting the moratorium on nuclear projects in their state, an issue which is still being debated.

Like the Western Kentucky Regional Chamber Alliance, Chambers in Oakland County have recognized the need to work together.  Through the OCN Chamber Executive Directors, CEOs and Presidents get together bimonthly to share best practices, participate in educational programs, network with peers and build relationships.  Often there are joint-Chamber events as well, to help members connect beyond their immediate area.

Street-Eatzz-AdAt the Jan. 22 Annual Meeting, OCN members also heard from Oakland County Deputy County Executive Phil Bertolini (see http://oaklandcounty115.com/2014/01/24/deputy-county-executive-defends-patterson-touts-oakland-county-achievements-video/), and Bob Thomas, Executive Director of Michigan Association of Chamber Professionals (story coming soon).

To learn more about OCN visit http://www.theoaklandchambernetwork.com.  To learn more on American Chamber of Commerce Executives, visit http://www.acce.org/.

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Below are OCN Members:

Directory

Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce
(248) 844-4100
Auburn Hills Chamber of Commerce
(248) 853-7862
Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce
(248) 542-5010
Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce
(248) 644-1700
Berkley Area Chamber of Commerce
(248) 414-9157
Orion Area Chamber of Commerce
(248) 693-6300
Novi Chamber of Commerce
(248) 349-3743
Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
(313) 962-8600
Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce
(248) 996-8340
Clarkston Area Chamber of Commerce
(248) 625-8055
Ortonville Chamber of Commerce
(248) 627 8079
Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce
(248) 542-2160
Clawson Chamber of Commerce
(248) 435-6500
Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce
(248) 651-6700
Pontiac Regional Chamber of Commerce
(248) 335-9600
Oxford Area Chamber of Commerce
(248) 628-0410
Greater West Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce
(248) 626-3636
Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce
(248) 547-4000
Holly Area Chamber of Commerce
248-215-7099
Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce
(313) 964-4000
Troy Chamber of Commerce
(248) 641-0197
373
Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce
(248) 557-6661
Chamber of Commerce for the South Lyon Area
(248) 437-3257
Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce
(248) 919-6917, ext. 222
Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce
(248) 685-7129, ext.105
Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
(248) 624-2826

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