Chamber Corner: Week of February 22, 2021


Throughout its two decades, the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce has based its membership on the employee count for each business. What we have learned, especially in recent years, is that employee counts don’t tell the full story of how a business participates in the Chamber of Commerce or the value received for the investment. As a result, the Chamber’s Board of Directors has authorized a new investment model now being unveiled for all our member businesses.

This new model is based on the services each business receives for its investment. At a time when the Chamber of Commerce continues to enhance its service offerings this structure demonstrates the true value for each organization. A small business can start investing in a membership for as low as $17 a month and receives a return twelve times greater than their investment. The cost of a membership investment per month for a small business at a first tier membership is about the same as what it would cost to purchase four cups of gourmet coffee a month. And yes, Chamber membership can be paid in monthly installments!

Starting with three basic tiers – Main Street I, Main Street II, and Main Street III – the Chamber offers a wide range of essential services that make a genuine difference for a variety of businesses regardless of their size. Small businesses get access to resources and technology platforms they could not afford to purchase on their own. The Chamber has made significant investments over the past few years into a variety of technology platforms with a focus on providing efficient, cost effective and high value services to the membership. These investments include: 1. Deployment of a cloud-based customer relations management platform which is a tool to help drive business referrals to our members by providing an online business directory with embedded Google maps. 2. In the fall of 2020 the Chamber rolled out the ShopLocalCHQ on-line marketplace to help members conveniently sell products on-line and generate referrals to their businesses. 3. Access to a cloud-based platform to provide Human Resource Compliance tools and workplace training videos. These platforms support the business community in two fundamental ways. The customer relations management system and ShopLocalCHQ drive sales to local businesses. Secondly, the Human Resource compliance tools provide an efficient low cost means to manage human resources and compliance needs in the workplace. Also included in the Main Street tiers are participation in Tuesday Talks programming, business after hours networking events and the Chamber’s popular ShopLocalCHQ gift card program. Importantly members in all tiers receive valuable and timely communication from the Chamber. Moving up to the metal investment tiers – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum – additional items are included such as event tickets, discounted sponsorship and marketing opportunities, and even more HR training modules.

While the new tiered investment structure begins with the basic employee count formula it also allows each business to select the level of service it needs and the ability to move into a higher tier. Chamber Board Chair Fred Johnson noted, “Some of us have labor intensive operations; some others are capital intensive. Some are simple, some are complex. The Chamber provides a variety of services to meet the basic needs of businesses as well as more complex demands. By acquiring these services collectively, through the Chamber, we as members get to use these services at a very small fraction of the cost of acquiring them on our own.”

The Chairman added, “Speaking for myself as an individual business owner, while we have found the services the Chamber provides to be very helpful, there is another dimension of membership I value as much or more. That dimension is the ability the Chamber affords us to come together as local businesspeople and collectively help move our towns and our County forward. As we go about our day-today work of improving our own enterprises, we are also inevitably all working to make Chautauqua County a more attractive destination for people to visit, for residents to re-explore, and for prospective fellow residents to desire as a new home and workplace. When we speak as one voice to government, we are heard.”

All Chamber member businesses, and prospective members, are encouraged to take a look at the comprehensive tiered membership structure. It’s all posted online at

Despite the challenges of the past year, the Chamber Board and staff have seen it as an opportunity to invest in and redesign programming to meet the needs of the busines community. Through it all, the Chamber of Commerce has steadfastly remained committed to the business community in Chautauqua County. The Chamber Board and staff stepped up all efforts to help struggling businesses throughout the pandemic shutdown, communicated clearly with factual information for businesses, advocated for a safe reopening, assisted businesses with the reopening process and we continue to advocate for safe workplaces for employees and customers, and are now focused on engagement with a collective effort to increase testing and vaccination.

The new tier structured investment model at a minimum demonstrates a return twelve times greater than the initial investment for member businesses and organization. For any business, that’s a win!