Chambers Help Keep Businesses Open

Column by Terri Hayes

By Terri Hayes
Posted

Chambers of commerce help keep those small local businesses you like so much open. Have you always loved a certain local shop only to show up one day and they are closed? Then you realize, as much as you liked that store, you actually had not been in there in the past year? We take for granted that they will be there when we are ready to frequent them, but with today's economy, our visits could be far and few in between.

Small businesses need to do all they can to keep up their exposure and remind consumers they are there. If there are two gas stations, two pizza restaurants, or two gift shops in your town, both equal in many ways, which one gets your business? If one is a big part of the local chamber, helping out at local community events and generally getting out there and meeting people, wouldn't you feel more comfortable doing business with someone who is more ingrained into the community? I know I prefer to frequent those establishments I not only know more about, but know chances are they are in it for the long run.

Your local chamber of commerce is one of the best sources when seeking out local, caring businesses. Here at the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce, as with other chambers, we work very closely with our members, supporting them in any way we can. We have many set programs, but when we see or hear of an additional need, can become very flexible and creative. We also play very well with others. For instance, many of our downtown members also belong to an organization called the Historic Monument Merchants Association. We both have a common goal, which is to protect and grow the area.

Other than encouraging local businesses to get more involved with their community, how can we the consumer help? There is a "movement" out there right now called The 350 Project that I think spells it out perfectly. Their purpose is to bring awareness of the challenges our small beloved local shops are facing. The premise is to pick three of your favorite places that would upset you if they closed. Then make a point of visiting them and buy something. Even if it's small, every bit helps. Purchases are the way to keep them in business, an idea many of us forget.

Their tag line is: Pick 3. Spend 50. Save your local economy.

To me, that is the key, save your local economy. We may think it is sad when a local shop closes, but do you really understand how it affects the whole community? If just one or two leave, it won't affect the area too much. But if more go, then suddenly there are fewer people in the area frequenting the rest of the shops. Vacant store fronts always send a bad message. The past owners of these businesses may end up having to either sell or walk away from their homes. This could now leave vacant un-kept houses in YOUR community, which is directly going to affect the value of your home. It is a very sad chain of events. This does not only apply to store fronts, but also to other businesses when they falter or fail. Even if we have nothing to do with the cause, it can involve us.

My point is to make you realize that local businesses' successes and failures directly impact our lives. So when you are out shopping, think twice before passing your great local treasures in favor of going to another community to buy. You just might be surprised as to what you find and the new friendships you make.

Note: If you would like more information on The 350 Project, the website is The350Project.net. Also like the Facebook page.