It has been three years since Nellie and I moved to Port Arthur and I became President of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce. I am still learning about this city and chamber and still a lot I don’t know. I have also noticed that not everyone knows what a chamber of commerce is or how it works. Since October 20 – 25 is Texas Chamber of Commerce Week I thought I would explain what a chamber of commerce is.
First, in legal terms, a chamber of commerce is a 501 C6 nonprofit organization organized for the purpose of economic development. The mission statement of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce reads “The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce is an Organization of business and community representatives working together as a team to achieve a sound economic environment and quality of life for the entire community.”
The challenge for the staff is to keep any chamber focused on this mission statement. While the mission statement is the target the focusing tool is the By-Laws. Too many times chambers get caught up in community volunteer work that should be the property of the 501 C3 charitable organizations in the city. The reason focus is important for a chamber is resources. Every chamber has 3 resources – Volunteers, Money and Staff. As each of these resources is used on a project there is less of each for additional projects. If chamber resources are spread too thin they cannot accomplish anything. Many chambers spend too much time on non-economic projects.
Economic development is more than just attracting new industry. That is important because without industries there are no jobs; however the chamber can help to attract tourist, retail business, medical facilities and any job creating entities.
Working to improve our schools and roads are also economic development projects.
The chamber is funded by voluntary investments from area businesses, funding raising events and advertisement in chamber publications and website. The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce has 600 members and we are governed by a board of directors consisting of 28 of those members. We have members from all over Texas.
During the week of October 17 the board traveled about an hour away for a planning retreat. At this meeting they set goals, reviewed the budget and starting getting ready for 2015. While all of the goals are not agreed on, incoming President, Paul Chargois agreed that we would continue focusing on team building, education, transportation and legislation for the next year. The one difference is his pledge to use his communication expertise to tell the story of the chamber and Port Arthur. You will be hearing a lot about the chamber and our city on the radio and reading about it on line and in printed media.
The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce has been the leading economic development organization in Port Arthur for 114 years and we are planning to continue that success story into the future.
We will be calling for volunteers to help us tell that story.