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Alameda chamber shifts direction

Submitted by on 1, August 20, 2010 – 5:00 am9 Comments

The Alameda Chamber of Commerce has “hit the refresh button,” the chamber’s president has said, letting go of its longtime director and working to rebuild the local business organization’s membership and finances.

Board president Barbara Marchand outlined a series of new initiatives the chamber is undertaking, including a member survey, promotions and a fresh slate of events aimed at building the chamber’s membership. She said those efforts and the chamber’s new offices at Alameda Towne Centre are having their desired effect, drawing new members.

The chamber opted not to renew executive director Melody Marr’s contract in order to save money, Marchand said, and the chamber is now being managed by Renee Kellogg, who has served in a variety of positions over the several years she’s been there. In addition to increasing its visibility, the chamber’s move to Towne Centre from its previous digs on Park Avenue helped the organization save on rent.

“Our commitment is to have the chamber succeed,” Marchand said this week.

Marr said the chamber board told her on July 23 that they were not going to renew her contract, which she had held for eight and a half years. She said she was “very sad” to leave her chamber post, which she called a “perfect” job.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time here and I really want to thank the community for their support,” Marr said.

Marr, whose grandparents settled in Alameda at the turn of the 20th century, said she worked to build an ambassador program that trained volunteers to spread the good word about the chamber and to put on a series of events with top-flight guests like U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, California Attorney General Jerry Brown and San Francisco Chronicle columnist Phil Matier. She also initiated plans to reorient the chamber so that it would also work to draw visitors to the Island.

But over the last few years the plummeting economy drove down the chamber’s membership and sapped its finances. Before she left, Marr was working part time, and she said she had taken a pay cut.

Marchand said the chamber’s board has been helping out with some of the new initiatives, including the survey and helping to sponsor events.

The chamber is holding a membership drive where it is offering 15 months of membership for a 12-month price, and it has a series of events coming up, including a crab fest, a Mardi Gras event and a golf tournament. The chamber is also preparing for its annual expo, which will be held on October 19 at the Albert H. DeWitt Officers Club at Alameda Point. The chamber is offering lower-cost tables for participants in the event alongside the more expensive booths it has traditionally offered.

“Things are happening,” Marchand said.

9 Comments »

  • Dave L. says:

    The the chamber still need the support ($$) of the city to stay afloat? I don’t see why taxpayers need to fund this.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    I am ambivalent about the Chamber of Commerce receiving city funds, although I think the argument can be made that doing so is justifiable to some extent because the Chamber (like PSBA and WABA) helps generate tax revenue by supporting and advertising local businesses.

    I wish my friend Melody Marr well in whatever directions life takes her. We often talked of the urgency of moving the Chamber out of the 20th century and into social media and Web 2.0 connectivity, and I hope that the “new” Chamber will move quickly to implement these Web-savvy projects. I also wish Renee Kellogg well as she takes on the tough job of moving the Chamber into the 21st century vis a vis overdue membership, organization, social media, and Web 2.0 connectivity initiatives.

    As a Chamber member of several years I have had a real problem with the far-right politics of the state and national Chambers of Commerce.

    I know many local Chamber members who are substantially farther to the left of and more “green” than the state and national organizations, and who identify strongly with Alameda’s greenhouse gas reduction initiatives and other “progressive” efforts. Unfortunately, the Alameda Chamber seems in the past to have not moved very far towards owning its own hometown ideals from the political “party line” dictated from on high. I hope the “new” Chamber will also be a politically and socially more sensitive and progressive one as well.

    Finally, Reyla Graber need not worry: the Alameda Chamber is not about to suddenly support progressive and environmentally sound transit oriented development or otherwise turn into a group of rabid Suncal supporters. (Been there, couldn’t do that…)

    I hope the Chamber is able to move into the 21st century (electronically, politically, and socially) as quickly as it moved into its new South Shore Center offices.

  • ct says:

    In September 2009, when the Chamber of Commerce announced their opposition to Measure B soon after local business and community leaders formed a committee to support the initiative, the Chamber didn’t look after the interests of its membership. It remains to be seen whether Melody Marr had anything to do with that strangely counterintuitive stance, but with Ms Marr gone, it appears the Chamber is now moving in the right direction.

  • dlm says:

    Thanks, CT, for sending me back to the wonderfully well organized Alameda Point Info site to look up the Chamber’s “Initiative Summary” on Measure B, which I’ve posted below. It’s a very concise statement, and I’m surprised that you didn’t read it.

    I’m guessing that you didn’t attend the Chamber’s very informative presentation on their position and decision making process. They formed a subcommittee and studied Measure B in detail. That subcommittee included WABA’s Kathy Moehring, a strong Measure B supporter, so both sides were represented. Counter-intuitive it wasn’t.

    Here’s the link to the Chamber Summary:

    http://alamedapointinfo.com/sites/default/files/AlamedaChamberInitiativeSummary.pdf

    The opening paragraphs read:

    While the Chamber supports economic development at Alameda Point, it does not support the initiative as written because of the significant economic risks it places on (or transfers to) the City’s citizens and businesses.

    The initiative caps contributions to initial investments and ongoing maintenance costs for the entire project. If these funds fall short of necessary funding to create or maintain the proposed improvements, continued funding of the initiative’s proposed improvements will necessitate a
    reduction in services important to maintaining Alameda’s economic sustainability and attractiveness, or an increase in taxes and fees on existing businesses and citizens to maintain those levels of service.

  • ct says:

    dlm,

    By opposing Measure B, it appears the Chamber of Commerce didn’t have confidence in the City’s negotiating capabilities to work out an agreement with SunCal over what the Chamber refers to as “significant economic risks.”

    In January, SunCal lifted both the $200 million public benefits cap and the 2 percent property tax cap.

    The Chamber’s opposition to the initiative was counterintuitive because a Chamber of Commerce usually promotes business and economic growth.

  • nancy vicknair says:

    To every change there is a purpose. A new broom et al! Bravo! Long overdue.
    All Chambers (and also other biz organizations) are hurting, but no Alameda city funds should be used for Alameda’s Chamber since their umbrella–the national Chamber of Commerce–takes political stands.
    Our Chamber should rely on its own revenue–or not. Membership has dwindled in part due to seeing the same faces and very few new ones. If this Chamber wants to survive, it needs to reach out to the new type of entrepreneur who generally avoids those orgs like the plague. i work with more than 150 local businesses and maybe one is with the Chamber. Owners of these biz are all under 40. They network and market their biz in a different way today and if the Chamber could segue into that type of marketing,our Chamber should attract that kind of biz owner. The Oakland Chamber has a big facebook outreach, for example. But our Chamber has a long way to go to catch up.

  • Dave L. says:

    I’m wondering why Melody Marr left? Was she fired?

  • dlm says:

    ct – It seems so futile to bring this all up again. You weren’t here for the election? All these issues got discussed at length, then we had an election and SunCal lost, by 85% to 15%. So it didn’t convince anybody then, and it’s not going to convince them now.

    I wonder how many people will read this and think, “What? Isn’t SunCal gone?” No, unfortunately, they’re not. Vote against every politician who supported SunCal, and then they’ll be gone for good.

    As for the failure to negotiate, see this article below (dated 7/28/10). Tramutola advised SunCal to put Measure A alone on the ballot and they ignored him, and gave us the kitchen sink that was Measure B. What would be the reason? Most likely because they didn’t want to negotiate. They could have pursued a conventional development process here and they didn’t, and they got stuck with the consequences.

    Strategist: SunCal Ignored My Advice

    http://www.baycitizen.org/development/story/suncal-strategist-they-didnt-take-my/

    SunCal’s top political strategist said this week that the developer didn’t follow his advice….

    Tramutola — to whose firm SunCal paid more than $250,000 — said that from the start he advised SunCal to put a simple exception to the growth restrictions with a brief description of the project on the ballot.

    “We clearly advised them it was best to put on a simple measure to move the ball down the field without trying to go for the home run,” Tramutola said in an interview this week.

  • ct says:

    dlm,

    My comments are about the Chamber of Commerce, their counterintuitive position on Measure B, and (after the Chamber “hit the refresh button”) hope for the Chamber and local businesses’ future.

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