When new businesses come to town my job is to welcome them to the community and invite them to join the Chamber. Before I can finish my first sentence I am almost always interrupted with the question, “Why should my business join the Chamber?” or “What does my business get out of this membership?” While these are great questions and my automated shortened response is to talk about the referrals, the ribbon cutting and the publicity, the truth is that the Chamber is so much more than just advertising for businesses. In fact, if that is what you think the Chamber should be spending all of its time on, we’d rather you not join.
The truth is that the Chamber does not spend all of its resources advertising solely for your business. The Chamber spends its resources on keeping Frederick alive and thriving so your business will ultimately have a place and reason for existence.
Every day the Chamber is busy working on bringing new businesses into town, improving our quality of life by making positive changes like beautifying the downtown, hosting a fun event, or inviting visitors to come see why they should visit or move to our town. We keep close ties to the political realm around us, especially on a state level. We are constantly thinking up new ideas to challenge the potential of the city.
We’re the dreamers, but we’re also the doers. We’re the hub of the community where ideas, actions and problems get discussed. Our committees are the hands and feet of progressive change in Frederick.
While it is true, yes we have funds to appropriate towards planting trees downtown, recruiting new businesses and encouraging the discussion of rural happenings on a state level, we are also a non-profit. This simply means that our financial means depend on you, yes, you and your business. The annual small business rate is $125. So where does this $125 each year go? For a new business you receive a ribbon cutting and enough publicity to make up the difference in your first week.
For established members the breakdown is slightly different. You may not receive $125 worth of advertising, even though you are referred much more often than you realize. More realistically, your $125 gets split into a million different positive projects around town. $25 might go towards helping us buy a new computer so we have the means of communicating with both folks around town and also potential business owners and visitors in Frederick. Another $25 my go towards purchasing table cloths for the Annual Teacher’s Luncheon so we can add a little extra special to show the teachers that they ARE appreciated. $15 of your donation might pay for cookies at a legislative reception when the Lt. Governor unexpectedly pops into town. $10 may go towards printer paper so the Chamber can mail out letters to the business who might eventually occupy the old ALCO building. Another $20 might pay for the fuel and equipment it takes to shoot a video about helping the hospital.
The truth is, you may not ever have any idea where your $125 went. But each newsletter, news column, Twitter or Facebook update that the Chamber reports could potentially be an effect of your donation. When we all celebrate the success of Oyster Fry, you can smile because a small part of your donation helped pay for the crackers to bread the oysters. Again, your membership isn’t about making your business better. It’s about giving your business a better community to thrive in. After all, who would go to your business if they didn’t first come to your community?