Growing Business. Building Community.

A Welcome from the Board Chair

Dear Chamber Members,

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Mark Eckhoff

Communities across the country with strong economic vitality typically boast an effective local Chamber of Commerce. The strength of a Chamber is its reputation as a constituency-driven organization. The larger the constituency, the more likely entities are to listen. Typically those entities are governmental units that are impacting businesses either positively or negatively.

To that end, the Chamber ended 2013 with a 14 percent surge in its Membership base. The highly-successful Membership Event on Dec. 17 and 18 at the Great Wolf Lodge added more than 260 businesses to the Chamber family, pushing our membership passed the milestone 2,000-member plateau for the first time since the Great Recession.

It turned out to be a rewarding experience in several ways. The consulting firm that assisted us was full of hoopla and craziness that, quite frankly, didn’t seem to fit our style here in Traverse City. As it turns out, it was much more than advertised. Yes we did add more than 260 new members. But what the Chamber really got was a look at what we could be and, moreover, what we need to be.

We saw what type of dedicated, influential, and committed members and leaders we already have. We learned a lot more about the biggest asset we have as a Chamber: the enthusiasm that our members have for Traverse City and doing business here. The staff and the Chamber Board came away with a renewed enthusiasm for what we are committed to and why it makes a difference. The positive vibes that came through our 180+ volunteer Members and the Chamber staff demonstrated what kind of energy and impact this Chamber can make. We agreed that this energy must continue in a way that is evident each and every day. Our goal going forward is to re-recruit our current membership in 2014 as we celebrate The Year of Our Members. We will remind members what it means to have a team focused on the local economy and prove to them that their membership makes a difference and is valuable to their business.

But it’s not just about strength in numbers. It’s very important for those businesses, and the region, that the Chamber seeks and gets feedback from our membership on issues of the day. Just like in your business, sometimes we get tied up in a job that needs our current attention and take our members for granted. By that I mean we don’t communicate with them enough; face to face, eye-ball to eye-ball. We ask for opinions from our members and we often hear back from the same engaged people that respond to everything. But we need to hear from all of you. We need to know your opinions on business and government topics - issues impacting your business. This is one of those times when it really is “all about you.”

Of course there are other benefits to Chamber membership that we promote all the time, including events and programs like Business After Hours, the CEO Roundtable, Young Professionals, and the list goes on. But the greater impact of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce is created through its dedication to making our region fertile for business growth. That happens by attracting new business and talented individuals to the region, and by providing capital funding for expansion of current businesses in the region.

Growing a business is easier in a growing economy. If you are a large business, it’s wise to invest in the Chamber because you are effectively investing in the local economy. In an economy that’s not growing, there are no “new” customers. There are only customers that are being served by your competition. That means that you are constantly trying to steal each other’s customers. That may be OK for some of your growth but it’s not a strategy for “break-out” growth. There needs to be new customers coming into the marketplace. Larger local businesses need a growing economy most of all. Smaller businesses help create that growth because they are in that phase of their lifecycle. They are adding new employees, who need houses, and grocery stores and cars…and the list goes on.

The growth of smaller businesses fuels the expansion in the local economy that larger businesses need. The bigger businesses need the Chamber’s focus on doing the things that enhance our region’s desirability for business. The smaller businesses need the support that the Chamber can provide through the educational opportunities, mentoring programs, and networking.

In 2014 the Chamber is going to reinvigorate our efforts to connect with our members. We will be reaching out to a broad swath of members and non-members to talk to them and get a report card, if you will. We want to know how we are doing. We know that we will hear some things that will be hard to listen to. There are members that think that our Chamber is doing a good job representing them. We also know that there are some members and non-members that think the Chamber can improve. We want to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. We know that the stronger our voice is in Lansing, Traverse City, Washington D.C., or Garfield Township, or wherever our members tell us they need help, the more our membership will see value in what their Chamber does for them.

The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce needs your input so we can advocate more effectively on your behalf. If you want to talk to one of us about anything, please call me, President/CEO Doug Luciani or any of the Chamber staff. We are interested in what you have to say and are willing to take the time to listen. You have my word on that.
Sincerely,

Mark Eckhoff
Chamber Board Chairman for 2014