Value of Your Local Chamber

by Eric K. Nelson, President of the Casper Area Chamber of Commerce. Originally published in the Wyoming Business Report, October 2014, and reprinted with permission.

How can your local chamber boost your business? Wyoming touts itself as a business friendly state and for good reason. Wyoming has a favorable tax climate, a strong and efficient state government and offers its citizens a great quality of life. However, being a business owner or manager anywhere is never an easy task, even in Wyoming.

This is especially true for a small-business owner, who must not only oversee the day-to-day operations of the business, but must be in charge of marketing, accounting, human resources and ensuring legal compliance with a myriad of requirements. The small-business owner doesn’t have access to departments of employees and on-staff professionals, thus the scope and breadth of issues confronting him can be incredibly daunting. Often times the first hurdle to overcome is where to look for help.

Local chambers of commerce have been advocating and assisting businesses for as long as Wyoming has been a state. In fact, chambers of commerce have existed since the birth of our nation in 1776. Since that time, chambers have evolved along with our economy, offering more services and benefits to their members.

On a national level, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce represent the interests of business nationally and even on an international level. The Wyoming business owner might not realize, however, just how many resources are available to him or her from the local chamber of commerce.

Statewide, the Wyoming Chamber Partnership [recently renamed the Wyoming State Chamber of Commerce (WSCC)], is an organization comprised of 29 local chambers from throughout the state. The partnership actively advocates on behalf of Wyoming businesses before the Wyoming Legislature and other elected officials. It collects and disseminates information on proposed laws and regulations that affect Wyoming businesses. There just aren’t enough hours of the day for a business owner to research every piece of legislation that may affect his or her business. The partnership is there to help.

Training CenterThe benefits of chamber membership go far beyond the traditional lobbying that chambers have always engaged in. Local chambers provide numerous educational opportunity for businesses. Many chambers conduct monthly luncheons during which they present knowledgeable speakers on current topics. For example, Joan Evans, the director of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, recently presented at a Casper Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon crucial information on state and local labor markets and how Wyoming businesses can take advantage of state programs and funding to improve their employee recruitment and retention. This is only one example of the educational programs provided throughout Wyoming by local chambers. These programs are typically low-cost and require minimal time commitment.

People GroupThe greatest asset of chamber membership is the opportunity to connect with other members. Through events such as business after hours, members and network with other business owners and professionals within the community. Participation in networking events allows the business owner to increase visibility in the community while marketing goods and services for little to no cost.

Perhaps the most important benefit is the opportunity to share experiences and trade strategies with other business owners for addressing the everyday problems all business owners face These are great opportunities to obtain referrals for the services that business owners need, including payroll, accounting and legal services.

Chambers of commerce are member-driven organizations. In order to get the most from a chamber membership, the business should actively participate in chamber events. Chambers offer opportunities for members to become involved in various committees and to help ensure that issues important to Wyoming’s business owners and leaders are being addressed.

Running a business is hard work. Wyoming chambers of commerce are here to assist businesses in finding solutions through advocacy, providing timely information, assisting in marketing and providing professional referrals. Every business owner and leader should be encouraged to take advantage of what your local chamber has to offer.

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