For many businesses, being a member of a chamber of commerce is a no-brainer. But for small businesses that have to pay closer attention to the bottom line, the benefits have to justify the cost of the membership. The metro Jackson area has several chambers. In Jackson, the 120-year-old MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce, which sports a new name, the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, has played a key role in the growth and development of the area’s economy.
One reason to join a chamber is to network, and the MetroJackson Chamber provides plenty of opportunities to create business relationships. The chamber also offers many services with a special focus on the needs of small businesses, such as seminars and workshops to enhance sales and profits. The chamber also serves as an advocate to ensure lawmakers act in the best interests of the business community.
Madison County Chamber of Commerce executive director Diane Dyar says that it surveys its membership to determine their needs and satisfaction level. “In our latest survey, the satisfaction level is high,” says Dyar. “We also work to determine what their business needs are and we try to meet those needs to the best of our ability. The last survey we did told us that our members want educational sessions on time management, taxes, networking skills, sales performance and technology.”
Dyar says that chamber members see a significant boost in their business’ image among consumers because of their membership. “Madison County Chamber of Commerce focuses on business needs, such as import/export issues, networking events, educational seminars and trends in economy and business. We also address the opportunities available for entrepreneurs and small business owners.”
Communication is key for Chamber members. “Electronic e-mail is communication of choice for our members, with the majority of membership reading weekly correspondence. Our members use our Website for contact with other members and for the calendar of events. In planning for 2008, we will be expanding our Website to include more demographic information and helpful weblinks. We will also work to provide a greater opportunity to interact and exchange ideas with a larger group, allowing members to work smarter, not harder.”
The Rankin Chamber of Commerce also provides its members opportunities to network with other businesses. “We offer a wealth of experience to new businesses,” says Gale Martin, executive director for the Rankin Chamber. “Someone who is starting out in business can gain a lot from talking to someone who has had extensive experience in business.”
Martin says that many members crave information on topics such as workers’ compensation, environmental issues and how to pass a business on to family members. “We hold ‘Lunch and Learn’ seminars each month that cover those types of topics,” says Martin.
Another benefit of the Rankin Chamber is the scholarships the chamber awards to area high school students. “They are our leaders of tomorrow. We give two scholarships each to the nine high schools in the county every year. Last year, we gave almost $10,000 in scholarships that students can use to attend one semester at Hinds Community College in Pearl.”
All of the area chambers offer discounts on office supplies and health insurance to small businesses. “That’s something small businesses, in particular, benefit from,” says Martin. “It’s difficult to find good insurance group rates for a small business with a only handful of employees. That’s where the chamber can really benefit the small businessman.”