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Finance New Mexico: Chambers of commerce offer more than networking
Chambers of commerce are trade associations charged with creating a business-friendly environment for their members in the communities where they’re based. They do this by advocating, educating and providing a variety of publicity tools.
While most chambers have a singular mission to support commercial activity, others advocate on behalf of businesses whose members represent segments of the community with special concerns or a unifying social mission. New Mexico has Hispano/Hispanic, American Indian, “green” and LGBT chambers. Some members in these tailored groups identify with the dual mission, while others support the chamber’s advocacy or simply want to do business with those who do. For example, Hispano Chamber members don’t have to be Hispanic to prosper from joining that association.
To encourage commerce among members, most New Mexico chambers provide printed or online membership directories and offer networking, advertising and referrals. But because chambers of commerce reflect their communities, other member benefits can vary widely among the state’s towns and cities.
The Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce offers a free educational program, giving members access to a learning management system for a full year. Las Cruces also offers member discounts for services through participating vendors such as Constant Contact, FedEx, Office Max and Sam’s Club. The chamber subscribes to ChamberRx, a program that offers discounts at more than 56,000 pharmacies and drugstores. To support locally owned businesses, the chamber facilitates member-to-member discounts.
In Santa Fe, the chamber emphasizes advocacy and meeting the evolving needs of its members. When downtown merchants experienced problems associated with increased homelessness, the chamber spearheaded a monthly meetup at which merchants could collectively brainstorm solutions. And when construction was scheduled for a busy thoroughfare, the chamber created a guide to help businesses survive road closures that limited access to their stores.
The Santa Fe, Roswell and Hobbs chambers took advocacy even further, leading efforts to attract commercial airline flights to their respective community airports to boost tourism and retail sales and to encourage businesses to move closer to these hubs.
Most chambers let members advertise on their official website, the membership directory or newsletters. The ads let members know the sponsoring businesses support the local business community. Chambers also increase member visibility through weekly radio shows, monthly newspaper supplements, annual magazines and occasional contests and awards.
The chamber in Angel Fire, for example, sponsors a contest to build publicity for member businesses as it encourages hometown shopping. Every Monday throughout the summer, the chamber’s brightly painted rocking chair is delivered to a different unidentified member business, where customers, staff and visitors can take “selfie” photographs in the chair and hint at its location. These photos are posted on a Facebook page, along with a positive sentence about the mystery business, and are entered in an August 31 drawing. The winner gets a cash prize, but all participating businesses win through publicity.
More than anything, chambers encourage relationships that are built on trust and shared interests that make our communities better places for everyone.
To find chambers of commerce in New Mexico, use the search engine at https://growitnm.org/ or search by location using the Municipal Index tab.
Finance New Mexico connects individuals and businesses with skills and funding resources for their business or idea. To learn more, go to www.FinanceNewMexico.org.