49 Years of Growing Business and Building Community

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Apr 11


49 Years of Growing Business and Building Community

Posted by Anonymous

49 Years of Growing Business and Building Community

This month marks the 49th anniversary of the founding of the Greater Maple Valley Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce.  Although my original role was just that of a young bystander, I am one of a few people who can say that they have been connected to the Chamber since its inception.  I remember my father and a handful of other business leaders gathered around our dining room table dreaming of a more vibrant community, possibly even one with its own local government.  From those grass roots the Chamber was born.

The road from that dining room table to today has not been completely smooth or straight.  Today’s Chamber is a dynamic organization and has been a driving force behind much of the change in our communities, but it has had its own struggles along the way.  There were times when the Chamber office was in the trunk of someone’s car and there even was a time (not too long ago) when the Chamber membership nearly chose to be absorbed by a neighboring Chamber due to financial worries.  Today our Chamber is on strong financial ground, has a stable membership, two paid staff, a permanent office location, and a dedicated Board of Directors.  While the long term changes in the “health” of the Chamber are significant, and very positive, there have been other changes that I have experienced myself during the nearly six years that I have served on the Board.

When I was first elected to the Chamber Board, there was a huge amount of pressure on the Board to raise revenue, mainly by holding fundraising events.  I remember that I was disappointed that the majority of the time that I volunteered to the chamber was spent on fundraising.  Although I was not pleased that fundraising seemed to be the main task of a Board Member, I did feel that spending my time in this fashion was a necessity to ensure that the Chamber would survive.  Thankfully, several significant changes have taken place which now allow Board Members to spend more time doing “hands-on” work with the community and have also had a positive effect on the Chamber’s budget at the same time.

Thanks to the hard work and vision of several past and present Board members, the membership structure of our Chamber was overhauled.  With the tiered membership structure that was instituted in 2011, each year Chamber members choose a level of membership which at the higher levels includes sponsorship of our various events.  The benefit here is twofold; the members are able to lock in which events they each will sponsor for the year and the Chamber has a more stable and predictable cash flow.  Although the number of events has not changed, the pressure related to finding sponsors and generating revenue for each event has been greatly reduced as most of that gets addressed through membership renewals and sales.

The other significant change that I have seen in our operation is that the staff and board have perfected and simplified the process needed to hold events and to operate the Chamber.  Each year the operation gets smoother and the work becomes easier.  I credit our past and present staff, in particular Executive Director Sue VanRuff, and the Chamber Board members themselves.  Their level of dedication and commitment is exceptional and coupled with years of experience has created a great team with a unified goal.  While there still is a significant time commitment required of the Board to put on events, it is less than I experienced my first few years, and as a result we each have more time available to follow in the footsteps of the Chamber’s founders by “Growing Business and Building Community.”