GUEST COLUMN

Chamber continues moving Bangor forward

Posted May 13, 2011, at 9:12 p.m.

The overwhelming approval of a new arena in Bangor on May 4 is a visible and dramatic example of what an organization like the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce can do for a community.

Working with community leaders and our partners at Eastern Maine Development Corp., Mobilize Maine and the Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Chamber helped bring the city forward into a new era of opportunity.

As important as that work has been, however, our goal as a chamber is to deliver value every day to the businesses and the community we serve.

In coming months, that’s the message that my organization is hoping to send to the more than 3,000 area firms that are eligible to be a part of the Chamber. While we’re proud of our role in securing approval for a new event and convention center, we want the community to understand that the Chamber has its sights set on more than just a new arena.

We have a seemingly simple mission: “To promote and advance a vital, healthy business environment.” But those nine words obligate us to prove every day that being a part of the Chamber is good for both the community and the bottom lines of our members.

It is with that mission in mind that we have an invitation for any individual or organization that depends on a healthy business climate: Come grow with us.

At the Chamber, we can help grow individual businesses. We provide credibility, marketing channels, advice and seminars as well as shared purchasing for health insurance and other needs.

We can help grow one’s network. We have a range of events, from Early Bird Breakfasts and Business After Hours to our annual dinner, that allow people to make the connections that help our members get new customers, discover trusted suppliers, find new jobs and recruit talented people.

We can also grow the influence of our members in our community, the state and beyond. We take very seriously our role as the primary public policy advocate for Bangor-area businesses. The arena vote is just one example of this. We’re committed to sensible regulations, fair taxes and smart public investments that allow our economy to grow.

And, of course, we know that by promoting a vital and healthy business environment, we will grow our community. Our programs — which include service to young professionals, building leadership capacity, bringing educators and businesspeople together and promoting employee wellness — strengthen the community. By being a Chamber member, you are giving back, making the Bangor region more vibrant.

Two years ago, the board of directors of the Chamber undertook the difficult task of restructuring the organization with new governance, a change in professional leadership and new roles for all of our staff.

That process is largely complete, and our advocacy on the arena project offers some evidence that the Chamber has become a more focused and effective organization. But there remains one important strategic task before us in order to complete our transformation.

When the board began to re-imagine the Chamber, it looked at the region and the number of organizations here and concluded that we could sustain 1,000 members. Today we have 800.

We have built a chamber infrastructure that can survive with 800 members, but to realize all our goals and develop sufficient financial reserves, we need to grow.

In coming months, Bangor area businesses will be hearing about how a strong chamber translates into a strong bottom line as well as a stronger community.

Together, we can create a bright future for Bangor, one where its businesses thrive and its people have good jobs. That can only happen, however, if the region’s business community sees that it can grow with us “to promote and advance a vital, healthy business environment.”

John Porter is the president and chief executive officer of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce.

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