WE are ABILENE, and THIS is OUR CHAMBER

April 20, 2020By Darrin Black, 2020 Chairman of the Board Black Plumbing/Maverick Saw Cutting and Core Drilling

I want to ask you a question – and then I need your help.

Do you know your Chamber? Do you really know it? I thought I had a pretty good idea, and for the most part, we probably all know a lot.

But, just in case you’re curious, or you’re like me and want to know more, hopefully this article will provide you with a more in-depth perspective of “our Chamber.”

First and foremost, let’s cover the boring, mundane, hard to understand side of our chamber because after all, the Chamber is one seriously complex machine.

The Abilene Chamber of Commerce is a  501(C)(6) not-for-profit organization within the IRS Code and is made up of a variety of related initiatives. The Chamber serves as a parent to several affiliates who exist to help the Chamber to fulfill its mission – to enhance the economy and quality of life in the Abilene area. The Chamber is not a charity.

But the Chamber itself – what you might know as the “member division,” is solely focused on providing support to its members. Primarily, we do that through our advocacy effort. Most of that work is invisible to our members, but you better believe its impactful. You’ve seen and experienced our advocacy recently more than ever through this crisis. But believe it or not, that work isn’t new to the Chamber. It’s what we do every day and many nights. But recently through the Coronavirus pandemic, that work has been much more visible and prominent. The Chamber is your champion.

Very simply explained, the Chamber is an organization that promotes business. It’s not designed to generate a profit and it doesn’t pay monetary dividends. Our Chamber is not a charity, nor is it a form or arm of any government. It is not a part of a larger, national organization. Our Chamber is local, independent, and is owned by and for our members within the business community.

Perhaps the easiest way to explain your chamber is: we are a member-based organization formed to promote our members and to ensure an optimum environment in which to conduct business. The networking? That’s a value-added benefit of your investment in the Chamber. The affiliates? They help us to achieve our mission. Keep reading to the end and we’ll cover those organizations, too.

But before we go there, I’d like to provide some data that may help break this down a little further and give a better understanding as to how what we do contributes beyond what most would consider a non-profit.

The Abilene Chamber of Commerce employs 30 trained professionals, all focused on your business and our economy, within five core focus areas. Consider that more than 85 percent of our members have fewer employees, putting us in the top 15 percent of the employers we represent by employee count. Think about that.

Our annual payroll tops $1.8 million and the Chamber alone pays more than $137,000 in annual payroll taxes, $225,000 in annual employee benefits and budgets more than $3 million in annual expenditures (with more than half going directly back into our local economy). Imagine doing that on razor-thin margins, year after year, for more than a century.

And get this – your Chamber spends more than $2,300 each year per member on average in the execution of its work. If you spend $300 per year for your membership and get back nearly 10-times that amount in value, wouldn’t you call that a solid investment? I couldn’t hire a set of eyes and ears to help you in Washington or Austin for anywhere close to that.

At the end of the day, your Chamber is a business. We’re just not motivated by profit. That allows us to do what we do for your business without having to inflate our costs to generate a profit.

Now, let me get to what we need your help with.

Our members are our lifeblood. When our members hurt, so does the Chamber of Commerce that represents them. You may not know this, but 501(C)(6) organizations weren’t included in the CARES Act, the Paycheck Protection Program or any other stimulus package to help businesses through this crisis and that has detrimental consequences. When our members can’t afford their annual dues investment, when our non-dues revenue is cut off with the cancellation of events, our mission-critical sources of revenue is undermined.

And so the ask – please consider joining me in contacting our congressional leaders to ask for support for Chambers to be included in the next phase of federal stimulus by letting them know how crucial it is that we keep our Chambers front and center serving our community during this crisis. Your Chamber is a vital component moving forward and we need to be able to maintain what we’ve already been doing- supporting our businesses, the economic backbone of our communities and our nation.  It is crucial that we remain vigilant, that we remain visible and that we remain viable.

To contact our federal-elected delegation in support of our Chamber and the work we do on behalf of your business, click here.

Now back to what we do – the fun stuff. How do our affiliates come into play?

The Chamber is made up of five primary efforts – the member division, or the Chamber as we know it. We’re blessed by an incredible, trained professional staff and their work goes without saying.

We also operate the Abilene Convention and  Visitors Bureau, which drives more than $600 million in economic impact to our city each year. Our Abilene Cultural Affairs Council enriches our city through the arts. Their work is visible in many places, and is working in many ways that most Abilene citizens aren’t aware of – such as in our schools. We’re proud of the work of our Abilene Industrial Foundation, who for more than 60 years has been laser-focused on the creation and retention of jobs to benefit our community and to add to our tax base, resulting in a higher quality of place for our citizens. And, of course our storied Military Affairs Committee, AKA the MAC, which has worked tirelessly for more than six decades to ensure a strong and resilient military presence in our community, which is also our largest economic driver.

Within the Chamber itself, it’s our members who drive our results, through committees like the Hispanic Business Council (HBC), the Abilene Business Council (ABC), our Abilene Young Professionals (AYP), Abilene Redcoat Ambassadors (the Chamber’s official public relations arm), our Agriculture Committee (helping to drive more than $1 billion in economic impact each year) and so many others.

These folks work for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days every year. They represent you, the lifeblood of our organization. It’s true that our Chamber is driven by the leadership of our investors. Every business, every volunteer and every employee from every business and organization that allows us to be a part of this. We are ABILENE! And, I said this during my very first letter to everyone – THIS IS OUR CHAMBER.

During this crisis, your Chamber staff has worked like dogs to ensure our members know about and get every single consideration we can in order to support its members. And, during this crisis specifically, we’re doing all we can to support every business in our area, regardless of membership affiliation. This is our economy, and your Chamber takes its resiliency very seriously. Let’s join together in supporting the Chamber. Renew your membership. Encourage others to join the effort. And help us to help our Chamber to get some of what it sends to Washington every year in order to continue to support your business.

Let me say it once more: We are ABILENE, and THIS is OUR CHAMBER! I hope you’ll help me to protect the one organization who is always here for the interests of your business.

Thank you for your continued support, more today than ever before.

Darrin

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