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Tough times for local chamber

Submitted by on 1, April 30, 2009 – 6:00 amNo Comment

22Times have been tough for businesses big and small. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the impacts of this unraveling economy would fall on organizations that support businesses, including our local chamber of commerce.

Memberships at the chamber have declined, but the chamber’s director insists the agency is still viable and working hard to promote local businesses.

“The chamber is going through what every other business in this town is experiencing,” Chief Executive Officer Melody Marr said. And she said businesses are struggling to pay their bills right now, making it tougher to write those membership checks to the chamber.

Marr said she met with the heads of other local chambers of commerce in Sacramento, and she said they’re facing similar troubles.

The chamber collected $156,141 in membership dues – its main source of income – in 2007-2008, or 59 percent of the dues it had collected in the prior year, forcing it to run a deficit of nearly $54,000 that year that was paid from the chamber’s cash reserve. (The chamber collected $148,085 in dues in 2005-2006, running a deficit of around $12,000.) The chamber doesn’t get money from the city, Marr said.

The chamber’s expenses were $18,675 higher in 2007-2008 than they were two years earlier, an increase Marr attributed to higher membership sales costs.

She said memberships are up a bit this year but admitted that times are tight.

Marr said the Alameda chamber is working with other local chambers to cross-promote each other’s efforts and that it is still working hard to help local businesses. Marr said she’s invited other chambers to participate in the Alameda chamber’s annual business expo, which is from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 6 at the Alfred H. DeWitt Officers Club, 641 West Redline Drive. Admission is $5, though the chamber has free tickets if you call or stop by their office, which is at 1416 Park Avenue, or 522-0414.

She said the chamber has been putting together a “Shop Alameda” campaign in which the chamber’s 15 board members spent $22,000 in town over 10 days, and that it’s putting together seminars to help people market their businesses and conduct interviews hat she hopes to have ready to roll in the next couple of months.

“We are not shutting our doors at this point. We are not circling the drain,” Marr said.

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