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Saturday, Sep 30, 2023

Tracking Chamber Boundaries Difficult

Boundaries in the San Fernando Valley are hard to come by. After living here for 25 years, there are people who still can’t tell when they’ve crossed over from Encino to Tarzana, or Chatsworth to Woodland Hills. They can take comfort in the fact that someone can, however. Postal carriers know, as do Thomas Guides and Internet maps. But trying to find the boundaries of the various chambers of commerce is an exercise in futility. Local businesspeople are members of multiple chambers, and a Glendale computer consultant may turn up regularly at a Woodland Hills networking breakfast. Chambers of commerce have personalities. A business owner finds his best fit, a place where he connects with the staff and members. There is no shortage of options, either. A new business owner can find that his neighborhood is simultaneously served by half a dozen different chambers. Most chamber directors and many members say they don’t mind the overlap. “Our chamber has a very good relationship with 22 other chambers throughout the Valley,” said Ivy Weiss, chief executive officer of the Chatsworth/Porter Ranch Chamber of Commerce. “We formed a Northwest Valley Alliance of Chambers with Granada Hills, Winnetka, Canoga Park and Chatsworth. We support each others’ events and each other programs. We try not to cross our events or have competing events. If Winnetka has a mixer, I go. If I have a special event, Winnetka (staff) tries to attend.” Weiss says that since it’s common for businesses to have more than one membership, she doesn’t worry about her members abandoning the chamber for another one that’s close by. “We encourage our members to go where there’s business,” she said. The issue of overlapping chambers became more immediate last year, when the former Northridge/Porter Ranch Chamber changed its name to the North Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce. The name change prompted criticism from the United Chambers of Commerce, which claimed that the North Valley chamber was attempting to lure members away from nearby chambers, like Chatsworth/Porter Ranch. Wayne Adelstein, president and CEO of the North Valley chamber, said he has no specific designs on taking over chambers, but did say that smaller chambers often times offer less to their members. “I personally do think that having so many chambers in an area can be a good and bad thing, and it’s been a bad thing. A lot of smaller chambers by themselves cannot provide the services that businesses want,” said Adelstein. Sharing ideas The North Valley chamber, he said, has enjoyed success in setting up small networking “clusters,” in which business owners in similar industries meet to talk among themselves and make new contacts. Adelstein said the North Valley chamber is unlike any other in the Valley because of its numerous networking events, but that he’s willing to share his ideas with his peers. “We’ve offered to help people in duplicating our programming, and it would be very nice if someone would take us up on it,” Adelstein said. Most of the chamber’s new members, he said, have come from these networking groups. Members tell their friends, and the frequency of the events heightens word of mouth. Neighboring chambers, he said, were unprepared for the buzz generated by the North Valley chamber, and have become nervous. Annie Reed, president of the Universal City North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce says that overlapping chambers ought to be thought of as an advantage. Reed is working with the smaller chambers in her area like the Studio City Chamber of Commerce and the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce to get more attendance at all local chamber events. “We’re doing a special page on our Web site, we share a master calendar which shows the activities of all the neighboring chambers,” Reed said. “We’re offering a $50 discount to any member of some other chamber, they can join us with $50 off in the first year. We would like other chambers to reciprocate for our members, but if they don’t it’s OK.” Competition with other chambers, she said, is the last thing on her mind. “We don’t have boundaries, it’s all business. We might have a real estate person who needs to network in areas. If a chamber isn’t satisfying its customers, that’s the chamber’s problem,” she said. “Each chamber is unique, each group of people is unique, so to be like a demagogue and say ‘I’m going to take over everything’ is just wrong.”

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