Saturday, November 10, 2007

Chamber Notes

The Chamber of Commerce Nominating committee - on the hunt to bag a candidate for president and a Board Member-at-large, no taxidermy involved - consists of myself (, Alena Brandenburger (as in the Berlin gateway -, Fedelina Romero ( and Guy Seiler (sorry - can't find card he wrote email address on - name & e-addy not on the member roster).

Current board:

Dorothy Cole, President
Kevin Turner, VP
Glenn Fulfer, VP
Dennis Fulfer, Treasurer
Ronda Silva, Recording Secretary
Bert Herrman, Corresponding Secretary
Jay Mortenson, Director at Large

Excepting Dorothy, who has served three years as President, current board members are willing to stand again. School Superintendent Jay Mortenson clearly expressed his preference to stand aside as member-at-large for a business member take his place on the board but is willing to remain if we cannot find another candidate. Bert, Dorothy and Jay have served multiple years. Glenn joined the board as a mid-year replacement but served as president years previously (probably pre-dating memory of many newcomers). Rhonda (on behalf of town hall), Kevin and Dennis are first termers and served all of 2007.

What are your thoughts on nominations? Let us know.

Someone broached the notion that Jay's civic-minded willingness is sufficient reason not to look further, perhaps also implying that the school district should be represented on the Chamber board. As Spock would say, fascinating. Is there then a reciprocal obligation to represent the Chamber on the School Board?

Yes, you can nominate someone, including yourself, who is not a member as long as he or she is a member in good standing by election time. Need a refresher on the Chamber by-laws? Good idea. Do it. Don't go pissing and moaning about the chamber not doing anything, not being business friendly, not doing anything that helps you, the community or your business unless you intend to do something to bring about the change you want. Put up or shut up. So join and nominate someone or yourself.

Article: Chambers of commerce fill a dual function

Treasurer Dennis Fulfer is planning a membership drive, No doubt his approach will be more appropriately chamberly and formal. Until then, take my take from Dec 2006 blog post:

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 presto, 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.

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. They don't even have a category for ones our size.

It's not just the US Chamber as a lobbyist for issues members may not espouse, 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 less than sympathetic with US Chamber goals can see the imbalance. On the other hand, nothing but their own inertia and aversion to meetings prevents member businesses and potential members from stepping up and addressing the imbalance.

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 in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, respectively, are not so different from contemporary counterparts. Towns in Mountainair's size range often "share" a county or regional chamber. For chamber sharing to work, collaborating towns and villages need to have compatible interests 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

A sampling of comparable chambers...

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...

More later on elections, membership benefits, plans (coop advertising, etc) and the last meeting - this post has already gone on way too long

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