Cutting the chamber does not help the city

10/27/2010 10:00 PM

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Budgets are tight across the board. From municipalities and cities to corporations and non-profits, economic recovery is slow. Businesses from Halsted Street to State Street are in need of support. Proposed elimination of funding – or rather a so-called one-year hiatus – for Chicago chambers of commerce and delegate agencies will have a lasting effect on commercial districts, the viability of Chicago’s neighborhoods and the way residents obtain the goods and services they need on a daily basis.

While chambers of commerce are supported, in part, by the businesses they serve, funding from the City of Chicago is a vital lifeline for these organizations committed to serving the needs of their members. Eliminating funding from the City of Chicago would result in either increased dues for members or the end of many programs, services, marketing opportunities and benefits that businesses rely on for their financial success. With the end of the Great Recession still slow, or nonexistent, in many Chicago neighborhoods, it would be irresponsible to limit the tools local businesses need to promote their products or manage their facilities more efficiently.

At the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce (LPCC) we are proud to support local businesses in many ways and do so tirelessly. Our printed materials, website, digital communications, street pole banner program, sponsorship packages and more provide the marketing opportunities businesses need to attract a wide customer base. These packages are kept affordable with support from City of Chicago’s delegate agency funding. Without this support, the LPCC – and other neighborhood chambers – will be forced to charge prices that many businesses simply cannot afford, cutting off a key resource our members use to grow and succeed.

One of every chamber of commerce’s most popular features is networking. Networking events enable businesses to build powerful and meaningful connections with potential clients, their peers, the local community and even their competitors. The value of developing a strong network is paramount to the success of any business. Referrals lead to increased sales or decreased operating costs. Your connections can help you in good times and bad. Networking can open doors a business never imagined. These events must go on.

Aside from marketing opportunities and networking events, local chambers of commerce serve as a valuable liaison for businesses to the City of Chicago. From support while filing a request for a sidewalk cafe to working with city inspectors to keeping the streets clean for customers, chambers of commerce serve as a vital bridge between businesses and City services. And when these services do not meet expectations, it’s the local chamber of commerce that is working the phones on behalf of busy business owners, and in many cases, residents.

Don’t get me wrong, the LPCC and chambers across Chicago know the financial situation affecting the City at all levels. We know that difficult decisions will have to be made to achieve financial stability. However, not only would “suspending” funding for chambers of commerce put our local businesses in jeopardy in 2011, it could potentially lead to the interruption of services from delegate agencies – permanently. At what point will balancing Chicago’s operating budget on the shoulders of the City’s business community be too much to handle?

Kim Schilf, IOM, ACE
President and CEO
Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce

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