About 10 years ago, Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce leadership made big changes and took some pretty bold steps. I remember those annual planning sessions well ... where moves that had been in discussion for five, six years finally became action.
Some changes were “phased in” so it didn’t seem like so many changes were happening at once. There was a conscious decision to not be a “three P chamber” — parties, parades and pageants, but rather a “three C chamber” — catalyst, convener, champion for business members. A trend in chambers around the state and country that only continues to grow.
In fairly short order, the chamber eliminated poorly-attended weekly (yep, weekly) lunches with mediocre programs and did away with most other “events” that didn’t meet the chamber’s mission. Right-sizing of the board began on the heels of eliminating non-voting, ex-official members and a genuine corporate organizational structure was put in place.
A political action committee (RACPAC) was formed and the chamber expanded its policy from only weighing in on issues, to endorsing candidates. While the chamber does not use membership dollars for political campaigns, the RACPAC does support chamber-endorsed candidates and ballot measures. The chamber began implementation of two-year legislative and public affairs agendas positioning the chamber to take action on state and federal legislative matters, as well as local issues without the delay of process.
It was also around this time that our member’s annual financial investment requirements were restructured. The board expected the new annual investment policy to reduce (yes, reduce) the number of members, but create a more stable financial base and future for the chamber. It is a structure that has allowed the chamber, like any business entity should, to have necessary reserve funds and investments to fulfill long-term plans and provide financial stability during the last recession.
Bold moves are not always popular. It was the case with some of these past changes. It is certainly the case with some of the positions the chamber takes. And, it will, most definitely, be the case in the future.
Be it the role the chamber played in the defeat of statewide Measure 97 or a local home rule proposition. Be it the fight — and, it is a fight — we enter into every legislative session in Oregon. Be it the chamber’s unyielding support for the increased harvest of timber and genuine management of our public lands to the point of intervening in a federal lawsuit or its unwavering support for the proposed Jordan Cove LNG project.
Whether expressing long-standing support for a downtown hotel while opposing misuse of hotel tax dollars as an incentive for that development, or endorsing and publicly advocating for candidates and elected officials who have business’ back, or choosing to walk away from organizations and/or efforts that do not or will not bear real fruit in support of business. Be it saying “no” to some and “yes” to others in order to fulfill the mission, the Roseburg Area Chamber is not afraid to stand and take a stand. It’s too important not to do so.
Popular with some, unpopular with others, the chamber’s positions and actions are never going to please everybody. That’s OK, especially if you know in your gut and, more importantly, in your heart that the work that’s done and the positions you take are always founded in the greater good and what is best for the business members you serve. Membership does have its privileges.
The chamber voice is powerful and it is influential. That can make some uneasy. The chamber’s strength is not because of any one individual or even the few making the decisions. It is, because of the number of voices it represents and the ability to harmonize to those voices into effective grassroots action.
I’m proud that today and all through the years, chamber leadership never forgets that the chamber’s core responsibility is to advocate, protect and support business while providing opportunities for self-promotion and professional networking. I’m proud of the businesses we represent who step in and step up.