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Friday, Jun 9, 2023

Future of Chambers Secure if They Adapt to Changes

As for the future of chambers of commerce, one needs only to turn to high school biology textbook. Those that adapt to the times and evolve to meet the needs of a changing world will thrive. Those that don’t will become extinct. Though many chamber people might not like to hear it, in all probability there will be fewer Valley chambers in years to come. Most local chambers have less than 500 members, and they often have difficulty raising money and building substantial volunteer networks. Those smaller organizations may find solace in the proverbial strength in numbers. “The future will likely consist of larger chambers and less of them. This is what’s already happening in a lot of communities. People realize that they can get more done with more numbers,” chamber consultant Jan Sobel said. “The truth is that some of them aren’t going to survive. It’s difficult to always be scraping for members, money, and volunteers to serve in leadership roles.” Sobel is not the only chamber consultant to believe that the future holds more mergers. Palm Springs-based chamber consultant David K. Aaker agrees with her sentiments. “I also think that there will be more mergers in the future. It makes sense for certain communities. People need to do what’s best for the organization and leave their politics and egos off to the side,” Aaker said. “It makes a great amount of sense for small chambers because the product they now produce has a broader benefit. Merging has benefits for more members and that’s who should benefit the most.” It’s not only chamber consultants who foresee a future of mergers. Lois Curran-Klein, the chairman of the Woodland Hills Chamber of Commerce also expects increasing consolidation. “In the next 10 to 20 years, you’ll definitely see mergers. The business community is always changing, nothing will stay the same,” Curran-Klein said. “If secession ever comes about, they might break up the chambers into four quadrants. I think eventually the smaller chambers will need to have the support of the larger ones.” Patricia Soteras, Executive Director of the Agoura/Oak Park/Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce said chambers can certainly work together she recently teamed up with the Woodland Hills Chamber of Commerce to put together a networking event but she said it’s not very likely that chambers are going to begin working together more than ever, or start talking about merging. Soteras said the chamber environment is “very competitive. We can’t really be as friendly as I’d like to be.” Continual adaptation While many chamber members would be reluctant to merge, all can agree that the only way that chambers can survive in the future is by constant adaptation to the changing business environment. Soteras said that when Alex Soteras became president of the chamber four years ago, cultivating the growing population of small businesses became a priority. That active recruitment has remained steady through current president Louis Masry, and the chamber now has over one thousand paid members on its roster, up from four hundred four years ago. Larry Mankin, the president and CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce believes that in the future chambers will focus on political advocacy more than ever before. “I’ve seen chambers change from organizations that provided retail services, into organizations that are far more focused on providing advocacy for local, state and federal government,” Mankin said. “The chambers that do that are the ones that have grown. Chambers need to communicate with their members to survive. We have to be the business community’s source for business information and education.” Most experts seem to be in consensus that despite the ongoing wave of globalization and the rise of Internet shopping, chambers will continue to have a niche in the 21st century. Chambers provide value “Chambers will continue to be a very important institution. Look at the last ten years with all of the downsizing,” Sondra Frolich, the executive director of the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce said. “When people lose their jobs, they often decide to open a business for themselves. They will need the resources that chambers provide such as publicity, networking and even training. There will also continue to be a reason for the voice of business to be heard by elected officials and those who are plotting and planning changes in cities like Los Angeles.” Aaker believes that as the years roll on, chambers will serve an even greater role in the business community. “The value of participating in your local chamber will be amplified as we become more advanced technologically. The value of one-on-one networking opportunities will have a higher value than it ever has before,” Aaker said. “The one-on-one referrals from chambers seem to be the magnet that brings businesses to businesses. Chambers will continue to be the best source in the community to bring the consumer to the business person.” Ultimately, the future success of the local chamber community will hinge upon whether or not it can adapt its traditional ways of doing business with the technologies and needs of the new century. “Chambers need to create programs based around both the old and new ways of doing business. They need cutting-edge Web sites with ways and means for online purchasing for their members,” Mankin said. “Chambers need online affinity programs to conduct commerce. There’s a tech component that chambers are going to have to have in place. We need to be technically savvy. Those that are, will survive and those that aren’t, won’t.”

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