I’m often asked what does the chamber do for it’s members? The answer has changed since I began my career in 1976 in Jasper, Texas. In those days the answer was simple, “It’s a way for you to give back to the community.” In the 80’s the answer changed because the question changed. The question became, “What’s in it for me? In response to the change I developed a brochure that answered two questions, “What can I do for the community and What’s in it for me?” To the first the answer is simple. As a company you contribute to the community to make it a better place for your company and your employees. To the second, the answer is, Business Connections, Education, Legislation, Transportation and Leadership Development. Another example of change through the years is how memberships are sold. It was common years ago, and still Is in some chambers, for the person selling the membership to say, “You get out of the chamber what you put into the chamber.” It is true, the more you are seen and take the lead the more contacts you make and the more confidence others have in your ability to do a job. But, in today’s fast world some business say, “Well I don’t have time to attend those meetings so I guess I won’t get anything out of the chamber.” Every year we lose members because businesses tell us “I didn’t get anything out of the chamber.”
I understand their feelings but, these businesses are uninformed on the benefits they receive. We have not done a good job in educating them on the indirect benefits. Almost every business in Port Arthur is here because of an accomplishment of the chamber over the last 117 years. Their customers are also here because of the chambers current and past efforts. The chamber and its members are responsible for the first regulation of the ship channel. They are responsible for helping to attract Texaco and Gulf and all the industry that came afterward. I understand that people will say the ship channel, railroad and oil brought them here, but the builders and investors in these development and land owners were chamber members. In those years almost, every elected official and business owner was a member of the chamber. It was then and is, now the business network. Some would and still do call it the “Good Ole Boy” network. It is now called the “Good Ole Person” network. The more people, of influence, you know and volunteer with, the more doors are opened. I’m not talking about illegal contacts. These networks are alike, you do business with people you know and trust.
The major investors in Port Arthur were some of the first chamber members. Later when some of our major industries wanted to move, it was chamber members that persuaded them to stay. It was chamber members that built and developed the land around the mall and everything else in between. All of these developments produced jobs, home owners and taxes to build roads and fund the education system. Each of these elements attract hotels and restaurants and every other business you see. Without the growth aided by early and existing chamber members that business that stated they saw no benefit in the chamber, would not be here. They benefited from someone else’s work. We just ask them to become part of the organization that made it possible and keep the economy strong for the next generation.
As for the member that never attend our meetings we offer advertising on the website and in the newspapers, resource guide, city map and community calendar. We also assist in attracting new businesses and work to keep our existing industry healthy.
For those members that have the time to attend, we offer networking opportunities in the form of our Contractors Business Development Group, Hispanic Business Council, Membership Luncheons, Leadership Breakfasts and Morning Business Mixers. If you can set aside 7 – 8 hours per month you would have the opportunity to meet, exchange business cards and get to know, approximately, 200 area business leaders, each month. It would not take too many successful handshakes to pay for your membership several times over.
Another reason we host these events is because membership investment, alone, does not generate enough income to cover the chamber’s budget. Instead of golf tournaments and drawings the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce raises funds through these events. We limit asking our members for donations and gifts because we want them to pay their membership and pay admission to those events that offers them a return.
For over a hundred years the chamber was the only economic development organization in the city and we did it without tax money. If you are interested in becoming the most successful and oldest economic development team in Port Arthur, meeting successful business leaders and advertising your business, call Paige Snyder at 409-963-1107.