Op-Ed | Chambers: The Transcendent Voice of Business

Walt Farrell

Published July 8, 2020

From the CEO


Chambers: The Transcendent Voice of Business
By Peter Carter, Georgia Chamber Chairman

When I think of today’s economy- riddled with a global pandemic, a strained healthcare system, racial inequalities, rural economic disparity, and a fickle market – it is hard to image a Chamber of Commerce playing a meaningful role. Like so many institutions, Chambers are struggling to provide relevance and value in a fundamentally changed world.

Is there even a future for a traditional Chamber of Commerce? Pondering that question, I’m reminded that our experience goes back centuries, bringing connection, influence and impact to business communities around the world since the 1500s. Few modern institutions have demonstrated the resilience of Chambers in weathering global pandemics, seeking reform for incumbering taxation laws, surviving wars, fighting for women’s rights, civil rights and working tirelessly to foster business growth and job opportunities at every turn. So today we face an unprecedented challenge, but it is nothing new for Chambers of Commerce. Our mission to serve as the common voice for all businesses, small and large, will be more important now and in the years ahead than ever before.

That doesn’t mean things won’t change. In today’s business climate, the standard and comfortable ways of doing things must give way to new and innovative ideas. Leaders must recreate business models to be more versatile and resilient. Educational systems must rise to fill the gap where job opportunities and skill sets are mismatched. And government must change laws and think progressively about laying solid foundations that will cultivate a spirit of unity within our communities. In each of these areas, Chambers will serve as the voice for business and the resource business leaders rely on for information and guidance. Moving forward, Chambers have a critical role educating elected officials on the need for legislative action, fostering partnerships for growth, and unlocking opportunities that exist for development through collaboration and relationship building.

How will Chambers continue to be relevant in our fast-changing world?

Chambers are a conduit for information. Since the pandemic began, the Georgia Chamber has demonstrated its influence in communicating meaningful data on the virus. Its COVID-19 landing page has averaged 1,000 hits per day, with direct member touchpoints of nearly 10,000 and virtual roundtables and town halls being held two and three times weekly. And media impressions have exceeded 250 million.

Chambers are a voice for connection. Even in the age of social distancing, today, Chambers can still play a relevant role in business-to-business connection. That means fostering key partnerships in corporate generosity, working collaboratively with other Chambers, polling members on important issues, and constantly seeking input to drive meaningful programming. In Georgia’s case, Chambers provide a powerful connection between rural and urban communities. They are a voice for global connectivity and, in today’s economy, a force for economic mobility.

Chambers are a platform for leadership. Good leaders seek advice. They seek direction. Leaders in business, government, education, and local community can all be found sitting on a board, a council, or a committee within their local Chamber of Commerce. Chambers breed leadership because they have leadership and are the clear and steady voice for that leadership.

Chambers are an advocate for business. One of the most impressive functions of a Chamber is advocacy. Whether its liability protection, fair economic tax laws or, most recently, effective hate crimes legislation that has brought Georgia up from being one of the few to join the broader voice of many in saying we will stand for equality of opportunity for all Americans, Chambers are an advocate to ensure our state’s culture and climate remain number one for business.

The days of Chambers cutting ribbons and hosting business mixers are over.  Chambers of tomorrow will be global champions of the free market system. They will step forward in challenging times to offer fresh and compelling ideas, working across party lines to expand the economy for all.  Those Chambers will succeed in today’s world and will continue to generate the highest returns on investment for their members and communities.

So, as our economy continues to recover and businesses look for ways to innovate, I encourage you to join a greater voice than just your own. Look to your Chambers of Commerce and join a voice that transcends time with profound relevance for today.