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A look at small business questions from the Southwestern Oregon Community College Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
By Arlene M. Soto CMA, CGBP, Southwestern SBDC Director

Should I join my local chamber of commerce?

The Chamber of Commerce is a membership organization that supports business efforts in the local community. Generally, the chamber will offer benefits that members want and support. Each chamber chooses benefits and activities based on member needs, member involvement and resources available. The most important thing to remember is, as a chamber member you will get out of the experience what you are willing to put into it including volunteering time and active participation in chamber events.

Most chambers have regular member meetings to allow networking opportunities and provide information useful to the business community. Attendance at these events allows participants to meet potential customers, suppliers or employees and catch up with business leaders in the area. Regular newsletters and email messages are often used to keep the members informed about upcoming activities and issues in the community. Some chambers have trade shows to allow businesses to market products and services.

Some chambers get involved in local issues and provide a forum for debate and resolution of local problems. Members of the chamber have a voice in the community to protect business interests.

Pricing and margin work together. You must analyze what it costs to produce the product and then price it accordingly to make a reasonable profit. Don’t forget to figure in fixed costs of the business operation when determining your margin. Obviously, volume has some bearing on how the revenues will eventually exceed expenses.

Chambers also provide referral lists to visitors in the community that highlight member products and services. A membership directory is usually available that provides access to local suppliers. Many of those directories are now available online and give local businesses one more place to highlight their products and services.

Training events sponsored by the chamber help members learn new techniques or keep up with changes in industry, the economy or technology. Many chambers host leadership programs that highlight local government, economics, education, health care, infrastructure, volunteerism and organizations. These programs typically last for 6-9 months and require participants to be involved one day per month.

A visit to your local chamber is a good way to find out what is available and whether it will help your business. Take the time to get involved and enjoy the chance to know more business owners, managers and individuals in your community. Be a part of the chamber to have a voice in what is happening in your community.

The SBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network, the Oregon Business Development Department and Southwestern Oregon Community College. Arlene M. Soto has been the Director of the Southwestern Small Business Development Center since July 2007. To ask a question call 541-756-6445, e-mail, or write 2455 Maple Leaf, North Bend, OR 97459. Additional help is available at the OSBDCN Web page

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