You've probably heard of a chamber of commerce—these private organizations have an easy-to-remember name. But what do you really know about the role chambers play in exporting?
Chambers of commerce are local organizations that promote, protect and represent the interests of businesses of all sizes in the community. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce “is the world’s largest business organization representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors and regions.” And while the U.S. Chamber is the largest, there are 13,000 chambers registered in the official World Chambers Network registry; 3,000 of these exist in the U.S. with one full-time staff member, but thousands exist as volunteer entities.
Chamber of Commerce Goals
According to the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), there are five primary goals of chambers of commerce:
- Building communities.
- Promoting communities.
- Striving to ensure future prosperity via a pro-business climate.
- Representing the unified voice of the employer community.
- Reducing transactional friction through well-functioning networks.
Chamber of Commerce Types
Chambers of commerce exist in many forms and at various geographic levels—local, area, regional and international. Because chambers of commerce do not have a regulatory or presiding body, each one offers something different. You may find that two chambers in close proximity to each other focus on different political agendas, have different rules and even cost different amounts to join.
Exporters can be involved with multiple chambers of commerce on various levels depending on where your company exports to, among other things.
How Chambers of Commerce Help Exporters
According to A Basic Guide To Exporting, “Many local chambers of commerce in the United States provide sophisticated and extensive services for members interested in exporting.”
- Export seminars, workshops and roundtable discussions.
- Trade promotion programs, including overseas missions, mailings and event planning.
- U.S. pavilions at foreign trade shows.
- Contacts with foreign companies and distributors.
- Export sales leads and other opportunities to members.
- Transportation routing and shipment consolidations.
- Hosting trade missions from other countries.
- International activities at domestic trade shows.
- Certificates of origin.
Finding a Chamber of Commerce
While chambers of commerce may be helpful, their loose organization may be confusing for some exporters who are looking for specialized help. I recommend doing your research beforehand to see if you have business contacts who can recommend a particular chamber that may be helpful to you.
We’ve also compiled a list of resources you can use to find a chamber group:
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives
- American Chamber of Commerce directory
- The International Trade Administration's Strategic Partnership Program
- World Chambers Federation
- ChamberOfCommerce.Com directory
My next article explains the role chambers of commerce play in creating your export documents.