A chamber of commerce, in many communities, acts as a service to the business community. Its membership includes those in retail, manufacturing, industrial, service and professional sectors, or in short, those who are in business in one way or another.
The Summerland Chamber of Economic Development and Tourism is now deviating from this model as it is offering associate memberships to farmers and non-profit organizations.
This change has some obvious advantages for the chamber and for the community as a whole.
By including agriculture and non-profit organizations, the chamber is able to represent more fully the wishes of the community.
Furthermore, including these sectors helps to unify the community. The perceived divide between business and agriculture no longer exists when agricultural members are part of the chamber.
Our present municipal council includes people from business backgrounds and agricultural backgrounds, so including a similar diversity at the chamber level makes sense. When the chamber speaks to a proposed change in the community, the power of its voice depends on the strength and diversity of its membership. While this expansion can help the chamber, the benefits for farmers and non-profit organizations are less obvious.
As agriculture changes, it is likely that farmers will find agri-tourism opportunities and farm gate sales more appealing. The chamber becomes an important promotional tool. For the non-profit organizations, the chamber connection can help in various promotional and fundraising initiatives.
There are still details to finalize with the associate memberships, but once these have been set, the diversity will only make the chamber stronger.