April 20, 2018
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Chambers look at how best to work together

By Dan Bookham, Special to the BDN

Upon taking the job of executive director of the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce just over two years ago, I was tasked by the board with the job of making the Chamber one of the “go-to” entities in the region. Thanks to the hard work of the staff, board and the membership, we have made huge progress in that area. It gives me a nice feeling of accomplishment when I think of all the projects the Chamber has been a partner on or kicked off in recent years. The list covers everything from improving the tone and depth of communication with all levels of government, to being an active partner in economic and community development efforts, to organizing events that highlight how much fun we have in the Rockport, Lincolnville and Camden region.

That’s not to say all the work is done. Every day brings new opportunities for the Chamber to lend a hand in taking a good idea to realization or to rally partners to a new project. We continue to listen and seek out voices to join the chorus — because when we all are singing from the same hymn sheet, the harmonies are quite beautiful.

One of the best things about working so diligently to become the go-to organization is that, in the process, we also have become a “listen-to” one as well. The more open the Chamber has been to collaboration and creating win-win situations with other organizations, the more receptive others have become to the voices of the business community. Our relationships with various levels of government (as noted above), economic development agencies, other business groups, regional marketing entities, key industries in our economy, other chambers and individual Chamber members have never been stronger or more open. With that said, there is much more to do. To keep moving forward on these goals, we must look to the shape of our organization to see how we can continue to both remain a relevant voice for the membership and continue our trajectory toward being an ever-more essential partner to key entities shaping the future and business climate of this region and Maine as a whole.

For the past two years, the boards of the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville and Penobscot Bay regional chambers of commerce have been researching how best to work together to ensure that the members of both organizations get the maximum benefit out of Chamber membership. Along with our partner, Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce, we recently launched a membership-wide conversation around the idea of creating a single chamber. Together, we need to examine how best we can deliver member value and benefits as the economy, region and challenges we face evolve.

There will be a lot of questions we will want to work through together as we have these conversations. From the start though, it is important to emphasize that the distinctive diversity of the communities and businesses both chambers currently serve is a core strength to be protected and celebrated. The overarching goal is to build value for money and better benefits for both memberships; and that any decision to combine both chambers into a new entity will rest solely in the hands of the members of both chambers themselves.

This is just the beginning of what should be an exciting process. Through it all, your Chamber will continue to pursue its mission on behalf of its members, always aiming to be both the go-to and listen-to organization.

Dan Bookham is the executive director of the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce. Call 236-4404, e-mail dbookham@camdenme.org, or visit www.visitcamden.com for more information.

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