When writing newspaper columns or press release we always include our “Tag-line” which very briefly describes our organization. You will find it at the end of this column as well. We hope that this column will go a little further in depth as to who we are, and just as importantly, who we are not.
One common misperception about the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce is that we are part of the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce and/or the United States Chamber of Commerce. This frequently occurs during election season when the North Carolina and US Chambers become active supporting legislation and candidates. The truth is that local chambers of commerce are completely independent of the State and US Chambers. Not only are we independent, but our mission is dramatically different from the missions of the State and US chambers. They are almost entirely focused on legislative affairs whereas our mission is primarily focused on economic, workforce and community development. Typically 85-90% of our resources are spent on community, workforce and economic development while 85-90% of their work is legislative. Our work for the betterment of the Henderson County economy sometimes is in alignment with US and State Chamber goals and sometimes it is not.
The North American Free Trade Agreement would be an example of legislation that the US Chamber supported but the local, Henderson County Chamber of Commerce did not. Immigration Reform would be an example of where we partially agree – we concur that reform that addresses border security and workforce needs should be addressed sooner rather than later. But we have elected to wait for proposed legislation before endorsing any specific, detailed proposals. Unemployment Insurance Reform was an example of where our goals were in strong alignment with the NC Chamber – and we worked together to enact reform that allowed the state to pay-off the massive debt it had accrued to the federal government during the recession, put North Carolina’s unemployment Insurance program on sound financial footing, and ended federal Unemployment assessment charges to North Carolina businesses.
Another misconception is that the Chamber is an arm of local government. Although we enjoy a very good working relationship with local governments we do not receive any funding from governments or tax dollars, unless they choose to join as a member. The Henderson County Chamber of commerce is an independent not-for-profit business association. The “Not-For-Profit” means that we pay taxes just like any for-profit business but our members can benefit as their investment in the Chamber can be deducted on their taxes as a business expense. We are proud to be independent and to have such strong relationships with local governments, which have chosen to be members of our Chamber.
The members of the Chamber are what drive the organization. We have nearly 1,000 who contribute their time, treasure and talents to help our community remain a great place to live, work and run a business. More than 80% of our members are small businesses (with 5 or less employees) and all of our members have a stake in the future of Henderson County. Members support allows us do things in our community such as honor high school students at the NC Scholars Luncheon, welcome new teachers to our community at the New Teacher Breakfast, honor Henderson County’s teachers of the year, host the Junior Leadership Program (for High School juniors), Co-Host the Vision Henderson County Leadership program, provide small business counseling, recognize businesses/individuals for success in sustainability, education advocacy, community leadership and much more. Members support allows us to offer networking opportunities, Leads Groups, Trade Shows, workshops/seminars, industry specific programing and a host of team-building events.
We are governed by a board of directors who live and work in our community – the Board also includes representatives from the Tourism Development Authority, Apple Festival, Merchants Association, Fletcher Area Business Association, Board of Realtors, Henderson County Public Schools and Blue Ridge Community College. The Board sets the organizations policies and priorities, which are then carried out by a small but dedicated staff, a couple of outstanding office volunteers and over 100 enthusiastic business volunteers.
In short, local Chambers of Commerce exist to support the business community, both small and large. And in doing so, their goals and activities reflect the desires of their local business community, first and foremost.
The Henderson County Chamber of Commerce is a 1000+ member business organization representing businesses in Hendersonville, Fletcher, Flat Rock, Laurel Park, Mills River and all of Henderson County. Through its board of directors and committees, the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce advocates for business through policy and new business recruitment by providing opportunities to network, learn, and succeed. For more information on joining or becoming involved with the Chamber visit our office at 204 Kanuga Road in downtown Hendersonville; call 828-692-1413; visit the web site www.hendersoncountychamber.org; follow the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce on Facebook, Twitter (@hendersoncocham) or Instagram (hendersoncochamber).