Sunday, January 7, 2007

Chamber Music

The draft title was "Resolutions & Chamber Music." That was until I got curious about other small town chambers and started looking. My (negative) resolution was to avoid oxygen thieves, but I'm committed to attending tomorrow's meeting as the chamber page is on the agenda.. Oh well, scratch that resolution. It's just not always possible to avoid oxygen thieves, not that everyone in attendance is one. There are pluses - if so inclined, I can hand deliver the much coveted Golden Road Apple Award (see Mountainair Monties) and (long overdue) a Fulfer (even if not the same one) will be in attendance.

Monday, January 8, 2007: Chamber of Commerce Election meeting, 5:30 pm, Ancient Cities Banquet Room.

I'd tell you the slate but no one told me, not even when I asked. This could be because there is not yet a complete one and the "Executive Committee" did not have confirmation of willingness from tentative nominees at that time. Hopefully they will by tomorrow evening...

Got questions about procedure? Review the Chamber By-Laws at the Chamber of Commerce web site. Reading the By-Laws may even put you one up on most members. The short version:
  • Membership. Theoretically, members must be approved by the Executive Commitee. In practice, show them the money and. likety-split, you'll be a member in good standing. Ready to vote, run for office, etc. You may need to run - and fast - if you don't want to hold office.
  • Objective. Current Mission Statement. Mission Statement for 2000 Chamber
  • According to Article XXIV, meetings follow Roberts Rules of Order, a standard by-laws feature in organizations, although most word the relevant article to the effect that anything not covered in the by-laws follows / is covered by Roberts.
  • Dues. The real kick-butt deal is for Seniors, $5/year. Article V, however, should specify that the reduced membership is an associate membership without the same full voting rights as held by business, organization, and individual membership but fails to do so. In the absence of being so stated in the by-laws, $5 Senior members have the same voting rights as $40 business members. Can't beat that deal with a stick...
So, what is a Chamber of Commerce anyway? And what do they do? What does this one do? What could it do? For that matter, how would small town Chambers differ from large city ones?

Some chambers have joined state, national, and even international bodies (such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and Worldchambers). In the majority of countries, the use of the term "chamber of commerce" is regulated by federal law. Currently, there are about 13,000 Chambers registered in the official Worldchambers Network registry, and the Chamber of Commerce network is the largest business network globally.

Currently, the Mountainair Chamber is not affiliated with a national association or international association, although it has been affiliated with the national association in the past. It is, however, listed with the NM Chambers of Commerce and on other chamber directory sites, right along with Paris and Wigan Pier. Official paid affiliation is too expensive (no vale la pena). Benefits would be of limited value to a small town without an extensive manufacturing or mercantile base. By AACE standards, small Chambers of Commerce are ones with assets under $200,000. I don't think they even have a category for ones our size.

It's not just the well-documented and frequently unsavory lobbying pracitices of the US Chamber - we don't have much in common with the mega-chambers in its flock. Looking at larger, richer chambers serving more developed business communities cannot tell us much about what ours can or even should be doing, let alone what the make up should be. Common sense - what's in a name, eh? - tells us that any NGO with commerce in its name has to be more about business than, say, pot throwing or pedagogy. Yet those reflect the make up of this chamber as much as and more visibly than local business because members of the arts community and school district employees are more likely to attend meetings more regularly than many business members.

The less "business" makeup frequently leads business members to wonder where's the "commerce" in the Chamber of Commerce. They have a point. Even a non-business person out of sympathy with US Chamber goals can see the imbalance. On the other hand, nothing - nothing but their own inertia and meeting aversion, that is - prevents business members and potential members from attending meetings and taking back their chamber, (which somehow reminds me of the Rodney Dangerfield routine..."take my wife....PLEASE.)

Anyway, back to the subject of small town chambers of commerce, Jackson MO and Ft Jackson VA are examples from elsewhere in the US. Small towns anywhere have more in common with one another than with more urban areas - even over time. Small towns described by Balzac and Baroja are not so different from contemporary counterparts. Often towns in Mountainair's size range "share" a county or regional chamber. For chamber sharing to work, collaborating towns and villages need to interests, have compatible or, as in the case of Brookings and Harbor OR, complementary demographics, and - above all - be on even footing. Any or all could be why Mountainair chambers on alone rather than as part of the East Mountain Chamber

The Jackson MO Chamber of Commerce is a broad-based, member-supported organization which was formed to promote and protect the business and civic interests of the community of Jackson.

Jackson's "Why Join?" page suggests that the same questions arise there as do here.

Committees: Education; Retail; Community Betterment; Agriculture; Events; Non-profit alliance; Tourism. Community Betterment Subcommittees to plan specific projects: Beautification, Historic District, Industrial Relations. Each committee and subcommittee has its own "objective" / mission statement.

Mount Jackson VA is even closer to Mountainair in size, with a pop. 1,664. The chamber there has compatible objectives - preserving heritage, encouraging tourism, etc.
The objective of the Mount Jackson Chamber is to preserve the heritage of the town's history, encourage tourists to visit our bountiful attractions, and promote growth for our businesses and town with new ideas, seasonal activities, and community involvement.
There were others... and ideas for our chamber page along with them. Overall, what they do have in common is more emphasis on community involvement, quality of life, education, neighborhood, etc. In a small town even business is never just about business...


  1. Vanessa,
    I don't know if the Chamber meetings have a set agenda but there is something I have been thinking about concerning our Chamber of Commerce.
    I have a small, stapled, and now quite ragged copy of the "Business Directory 2000". Of course it is quite out of date. Does the Chamber of Comerce plan to publish an updated version this year? I found it quite useful and continue to re-staple it as it gets older and older.

  2. Updating - or by now assembling a new one - has been discussed and is definitely on the agenda.

    Mine is in better shape than yours since I keep misplacing it. Taking 1-2 years breaks extends its life no end.

    I wonder how many of those are still around. Even more useful would be the file so that the entire directory would not have to be retyped. A new one should also include e-mail and addresses and URLs

  3. just curious1/16/2007 2:01 AM

    Why doesn't the Town of Mountainair have its own page?


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