Issue: October 2007 Issue
How to use a chamber of commerce to help grow your business
For centuries, businesses have reaped the benefits of joining chambers of commerce. But beyond the myriad of networking opportunities, there are many ways a chamber can help your business grow and thrive.
According to Vicky Hawke, executive director of Northern Ohio Area Chambers of Commerce (NOACC), networking is the No. 1 reason businesses join a chamber. "For the small cost of a chamber membership, businesses have access to other businesspeople in the community," she says, adding that chambers also address and serve the needs of the business community through education and advocacy issues.
The dollars-and-cents savings that go along with a chamber membership is NOACC's sweet spot. Founded in 1995, NOACC currently offers benefits to almost 35,000 employer groups through the members of 133 chambers of commerce in northern Ohio.
The largest independent chamber association in the United States, NOACC was created to attract and retain members in local chambers of commerce by offering significant discounts and rates on benefits businesses want.
Local chambers join NOACC and pass savings on to their members who can take advantage of the programs and effectively improve their businesses' bottom line. "People don't join the chamber of commerce to help the chamber; they join the chamber of commerce to help their business. It's not a contribution; it's an investment in their business," Hawke says.
NOACC's member benefits include group health insurance and group life and disability insurance with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, workers' compensation group rating programs, credit card processing and payroll processing services with Heartland Payment Systems, freight delivery and employee-wellness programs.
The caveat to reeling in the savings? Members have to take the first step in receiving the benefits. "Neither the chamber nor the vendor is spending a lot of time in trying to sell them anything," says Hawke. "They have to actually go looking for it and they have to ask 'Is there a discount because of my chamber membership?' or 'How do I get this discount?' It's like any other membership buying group — you must take advantage of the savings."
The organization negotiates with vendors to get group discounts for their members. For example, companies that opt for health insurance coverage with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield can receive a 3 percent discount for groups between two and 50. If they also enroll in Anthem life insurance, that discount can be as much as 5 percent. In the case of workers' compensation premiums, NOACC has saved companies up to 90 percent of their premiums. "We save our members millions of dollars every year between the various benefits we offer," says Hawke.
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