Chambers of Commerce help make our communities better

by richard Dayoub
Originally published on the El Paso Times newspaper on October 15th 2016

 

On Aug. 30, Gov. Abbott signed a proclamation recognizing the importance of Chambers of Commerce, declaring Oct. 17-21 Chamber of Commerce Week.

There are an estimated 13,000 chambers of commerce worldwide and approximately 3,000 registered chambers in the United States. A few hundred are registered in Texas.

Chambers are non-profit organizations who represent their communities from a business perspective. They are as diverse as the issues that face their cities and regions.

The chamber in a small town may be in charge of the annual rodeo parade. Very large chambers in major metropolitan cities have a much broader mission that may also encompass economic development.

Often, there are several chambers in the same community, particularly in the largest cities. El Paso has two chambers of commerce: the Greater El Paso Chamber and the El Paso Hispanic Chamber, each representing a membership base focused on their respective organizations’ priorities.

While we have similar membership representation in the community, we each focus on different priorities but with one shared belief: to improve the quality of education and economic prosperity for our region.

The Greater Chamber’s mission is to advocate for the interests of business to drive economic growth for our region. Pursuing that effort requires commitments from a legion of volunteers led by our governing board, division and committee chairs and a relatively small staff of seventeen.

So what does this chamber of commerce do? For starters, this chamber helped to create the Dedicated Commuter Lane at the Stanton Street Bridge in 1999, which has become the model across the United States and remains one of the most valuable assets to our commuters from both sides of the border.

We also run Leadership El Paso, beginning its 39th year. Many of El Paso’s civic, business and political leaders represent the alumni.

We also coordinate the Junior Leadership Program, begun by Class 25, as their class project. This year, we had 171 applicants from 31 area high schools for just 55 slots.

We are best known for our role on behalf of Fort Bliss in the 2005 round of Base Realignment and Closure.

We are focused on public policy impacting business. Essential to our community’s progress and the chamber’s effectiveness is collaboration with the city and county, Borderplex Alliance, and our elected leaders.

Along with prominent civic leaders and our elected state officials, we advocated for the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine for more than 15 years. We supported the formation of the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority, the 2012 quality of life bonds, the ballpark which houses our beloved Chihuahuas and several school district bonds.

We are called upon at the state and national levels to provide public policy positions on critical legislation such as border security and immigration reform.

We’re good for business in another way. A national survey revealed that the consuming public is 80 percent more likely to purchase goods and services from a business who is a chamber member.