Thursday, April 26, 2012

Open for Business: The St. Louis Chamber of Commerce?

The St. Louis Business Journal just released its 2012 list of the region's top 25 chambers of commerce. Nowhere on the list will you find the City of St. Louis. Why? Because there is no such thing as the "St. Louis Chamber of Commerce".

Chambers of Commerce serve as business associations for area businesses. They are by and large membership organizations, with businesses making up the membership. Businesses pay dues to join, and the chamber provides services to member businesses.

A standard mission statement of a chamber of commerce often reads, "The Mission of the ____ Chamber of Commerce, in close association with the City of ______, is dedicated to developing a strong network for potential and existing local business to prosper and thrive in our community".

Another example is, "The Greater _____ Chamber of Commerce is a trusted business organization working for the development and voice of business success in ______. We provide opportunities for all businesses and individuals who invest in the _______community. Our goal is to keep ______ a healthy, thriving community with an exceptional quality of life. We invite you to join us today and help build a sound foundation to support the economic momentum in ______!"

So why doesn't St. Louis have its own chamber of commerce? One reason is that there are already a number of smaller business associations serving neighborhood business districts. There is the South Broadway Business Association serving the Carondelet area, the Hampton Chippewa Business Association serving the Hampton Village, Southwest City area. In Baden, there was a Businessmen's Association formed in 1913.

A chamber of commerce builds sense of community. It creates a sense of shared purpose and interest among community stakeholders. If St. Louis had a city-wide chamber of commerce, connections would be made across neighborhood, ward, and bigger city boundaries.

In the past, people may have believed that the most important thing to them was to have a healthy neighborhood business district where they lived. They weren't too concerned about what was happening in another neighborhood or the other side of town.

With efforts on today to build a more sustainable city, does it make sense to establish a citywide chamber of commerce for the entire city of St. Louis? It might go to number one on the St. Louis Business Journal's list of the region's Top 25 Chambers of Commerce!


Will Fru said...

Isn't this the purpose of the RCGA?

Rick Bonasch said...

Thanks for your comment, Will. A lot of people think RCGA is the city's chamber, but it's the regional chamber. RCGA markets the St. Louis region to the nation and world. It has a much broader focus than the city of St. Louis. It covers Illinois, Jefferson County, St. Charles County, etc.

Other people think SLDC is the city's chamber, but it's the city's development arm. SLDC is a quasi-governmental branch of city government, working as a public development corporation. It's not a business membership organization in the sense of a traditional chamber of commerce.

SLDC (and its related entities including LCRA and LRA) principle role is to aid in the redevelopment process, using such tools as tax exempt bond financing, site assemblage, and the establishment of redevelopment areas. SLDC works in conjunction with the Board of Aldermen and Mayor's office.

SLDC is structured in such a way as to serve as an excellent resource to the member organizations of a traditional chamber of commerce.

A chamber of commerce is a membership organization made up of local businesses, run by a board of directors elected from the membership. There is no such organization serving the entire city of St. Louis.

Yet Another St. Louis Blog by Kevin B. said...

So...what's the ranking look like 1-25?

I couldn't find a list online of it.

Rick Bonasch said...

1. St. Louis RCGA
2. Washington Area COC
3. Chesterfield COC
4. Greater St. Charles County COC
5. Greater Belleville COC
6. RiverBend Growth Association (IL)
7. Kirkwood-Des Peres COC
8. Clayton COC
9. COC of Southwestern Madison County (IL)
10. Edwardsville Glen Carbon COC
11. South County COC
12. Collinsville COC
13. West St. Louis County COC
14. Hispanic COC of Metro St. Louis
15. Maryland Heights COC
16. Fenton Area COC
16. O'Fallon COC
18. Northwest COC
19. Troy/Maryville/ St. Jacob Area COC
20. Creve Coeur - Olivette COC
21. Affton COC
22. Webster Groves/Shrewsbury/Rock Hill COC
23. Greater North County COC
24. Highland COC
24. Union Area COC
25. Twin City Area COC (Festus/Crystal City)