Chambers Facing Challenges – Tales of Adaptability

Written by:  Chris Mead is senior vice president of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Apathy . . . what chamber doesn’t face it every now and then?  And how important is it to overcome it?

The chamber of commerce in Charleston, S.C., faced this problem in the middle of 1790.  Several members resigned and in July, there was a motion made to dissolve the chamber.  Fortunately, this motioned was postponed, and in September the motion was withdrawn and the chamber brought on a number of new members.

This revival was timely.  On March 30, 1791, the chamber approved a resolution to host President George Washington on his visit to the city.  The successful gala event took place on May 7.  Thus right after almost succumbing to apathy, the chamber members hosted the father of their country.

At other times in the nation’s history, chambers faltered, and some naturally disappeared from the scene.  Nothing is immortal.  But no major chambers vanished during the Great Depression.  Tactics for collecting dues then included suing nonpaying members, sending pretty girls to collect late dues, and sitting recalcitrant members at the head table at events next to powerful board members.


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