The Garden City Telegram
7/31/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

125 years

Voices should be heard to help chamber evolve.

Like many businesses and other organizations, chambers of commerce have evolved over time.

Years ago, chambers nationwide were embraced by practically all in their communities. A chamber membership was a given, with little regard for what members received in return.

How times have changed.

Today's chambers offer more than ever before. Yet they also face the challenge of maintaining members and enlisting new participants, due in part to tougher economic times and greater demands from businesses that question the return on investment in a membership.

Count the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce among those with a good number of programs and other offerings in place to help local businesses grow and flourish — from networking opportunities to professional development and other member benefits.

Recognizing its 125th anniversary this year, the local chamber is under the leadership of Steve Dyer, who had worked for the local chamber before running a chamber in Colorado.

Since returning to Garden City, Dyer has been busy meeting with chamber members and gathering input needed to put the organization on a course that best serves the local business community.

Of course, he also inherited a difficult financial situation. A decision last year by Finney County officials ended a long-standing deal that saw the chamber operate a convention and tourism bureau funded by a local guest tax. That unfortunate move undermined financial support for the chamber, which utilized some of those dollars for its expenses.

The chamber staff and board have done their best to rebound and move forward. As they do, others shouldn't take their efforts for granted.

A healthy chamber, after all, is a sign of a strong community.

It's easy to simply encourage local businesses and others to join the chamber. Those already involved or considering a membership also need to be heard. Being a chamber member is a partnership, after all.

For those on board or considering a membership, ask what's available. Share your business needs and ways the chamber could help.

And, in turn, help the chamber continue to evolve on its way to, hopefully, another 125 years of service to the community.