WHILE I JOINED the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce as the executive director in November 2021, my relationship with this organization began more than 15 years ago.
Working for a local business owner who was not only an active member with all of his businesses but also a board member (eventually president) and a Humanitarian Award recipient gave me a unique insight into why our chamber of commerce is so vital to our local businesses.
When I moved on to another employer, it was part of my role to represent our business at chamber and ambassador happenings. Over those intervening years, I learned how to get the most benefit from our memberships at chambers across the North Olympic Peninsula. As a board president for the Sequim Community Orchestra, I was shown how chamber members work together to help each other.
Now, nearly 18 months into my role with the chamber, I realize that I was looking through a keyhole into what the chamber was doing for me, for my business, for nonprofit organizations and more broadly for our local community.
The chamber is a We, not an I. While I am hard at work for our members and partners every day, I am part of a team of additional staff, volunteers, ambassadors and our board of directors. All of us work in tandem, honoring our vision, mission and core values.
Our chamber team distilled those statements of our purpose into the three words across the bottom of our logo: Inform, Support, Advocate. These words are like silos containing our actions and our methods for doing the work of this organization.
First, we Inform. We offer our members benefits like ads in our newsletter, banners on our website, and social media campaigns that inform their customers and the public about what they do. We share information with our members about news and events that may impact their businesses, like new grant opportunities. We both gather and share information with other organizations, from the city and county governments to the state Department of Transportation (DOT). And we work to inform our community of all the aspects to enjoy in the Dungeness Valley.
Second, we Support. That work takes many forms. We sit on committees and boards for other organizations, like the Irrigation, Sunshine and Lavender festivals. We serve on lodging tax committees, advisory councils and other organizations’ boards of directors. When a business needs help, from crafting their next marketing campaign to finding resources to grow their business, we do what we can to get them connected to the tools they need. Through our networking-type events, our members and guests are invited to find new mentors, partners and colleagues.
Thirdly, we Advocate. From the Sequim City Council and commissions to DOT, we act as a voice for our business community. Partnering with other groups like the Clallam Economic Development Council (EDC), the North Olympic Development Council (NODC), and the Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission (OPTC), we are able to affect change through lobbying efforts, negotiation, and careful planning.
For example, over the next 24 months, our county will see a large number of projects through DOT impacting our tourism and local travel. Teams with the EDC and OPTC have been able to influence the schedule of projects and provide DOT with critical information that helped shape their timeline.
Your chambers of commerce across the North Olympic Peninsula also often work in tandem, as when hosting things like job fairs or a booth at the Clallam County Fair. When one of us has a problem or needs some extra help, we reach out to assist each other. It’s just another way that working together, we can all help to foster a healthy economic climate and vibrant community for us all.
So, when people come to me and ask, “Should I join the chamber?”… My answer is always an enthusiastic, “YES!” Your chamber of commerce is a “big tent” space, a place for local organizations to gather. In one unified voice, together, we are a force for positive change and thoughtful growth.
Beth Pratt is the executive director of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce.