Thank goodness! It’s finally over. I have no idea why it has taken this community nearly a decade to  realize it was are engaged in a failed relationship. Well, actually, I do. We suffer from a severe lack of leadership at all levels. And, just like in any failed marriage, the children are the ones who suffer. 

In this case, the community suffered, businesses large and small suffered and our growth and economic development suffered. Now, it’s over. Fayetteville and Cumberland County along with the Chamber of Commerce and it’s economic development arm (Economic Development Alliance) will have another chance at a new and more rewarding existence.

We hope. 

I know very little about the complexities of economic development. I have always left that to the professionals. However, I built my entire professional career and two companies on the foundation of our local Chamber of Commerce. Matter of fact, even today, when potential
clients approach me or any of my staff for professional advice on marketing, advertising or consulting on growing and developing a successful business, the very first
question we ask them is: “Are you a member of the Chamber of Commerce?”

The reasoning is simple: Their answer serves as a barometer for their future success. Chambers are local, business is local and success is local. If a new business or prospective client does not see the value and advantage of belonging to the central, local, bona fide business
organization whose job it is to provide the programs, services, venues and support for the success of their business then what do they expect us to do? Our mantra is to “help those who help themselves.” 

Of course, the Chamber of Commerce must provide these services unencumbered. For many reasons this is why our Fayetteville Chamber has failed the business community and why the business community welcomed the decision to create an objective  task force to assess the situation. They did, and it was a job well done. My hat is off  to Jack Rostetter, who lead the community task force for months evaluating the current situation. 

The results? Hey, pretty much a verification and confirmation of what everyone has known, tolerated  and been subjected to for years:

The Chamber is ineffective and losing members.

The Chamber needs to be an advocate for local business.

The Chamber should not be financially beholden to the city or county governments.

The Chamber has little-to-no influence in the city and county.

The Chamber Board of Directors is too large and virtually ineffective. 

None of this is a bad thing and the fix is long overdue. Make no mistake about it, the transition will not be difficult. Local businesses and organizations will come back and the membership and revenues will grow once they see the Chamber again taking up the role as a true dedicated business advocate. It will be an easy sell and many will step up to help rebuild.

Many of us long-time die-hard Chamber members remember the time when you didn’t sign up two weeks in advance for the Annual Chamber Golf Tournament, you wouldn’t get a spot. We also remember when the Chamber Coffee Clubs were relevant and “standing-room only”. We remember when Business After Hours was a prestigious monthly social and a virtual “who’s who” of local business, industry and government leaders. It can be again.

For too long, our local governments have ignored the needs and requests of local businesses and organizations both large and small. Our voices have not been heard. The Chamber of Commerce is that voice. We will support the new Chamber efforts and we do not intend to be the mouse that roared, but, the lion that roared and rightfully so. He’s the king of the jungle!  

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.


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