As our Chamber Board members talk with small business owners we often get asked why there are two Chambers at this end of the Lake. We decided to put together an explanation. While there are specific reasons in our community why two Chambers are active here, we have found that our town is more normal in this regard than one might think. First, it might be interesting to note that there are actually 5 Chambers around the Lake with the 3 at the North end being in Incline Village, Tahoe City and Truckee. El Dorado County has 5 Chambers including ours. Our neighboring Placer County has 7 Chambers and Sacramento County has a whopping 16 Chambers of Commerce! There are three key reasons why separate chambers form. The 3 reasons are, geographical, political and practical.
Geographical is self-explanatory in that business owners do not often have the time to attend meetings that are too far from their operations. Time is money and our small business members are often both the owner and or the manager with no one to give them respite. It is a long way from Carson City to Sacramento where the two State Capitals are located. And depending on the traffic, weather and road repairs it can take 20 minutes each way just to cross our community. The two Chambers have traditionally each had an emphasis on their respective state with the other backing them up on issues that they need the other’s help on. There are simply too many meetings going on in Douglas County and El Dorado County to adequately attend all of them with one Chamber of Commerce staff. We alleviate that by using volunteers and by keeping in contact with our 5 Chamber alliance. Most all Chambers share ideas and support each other with few exceptions.
Political reasons can be a large issue. Tahoe because of the state line is a prime example. What is good for Nevada economic development is often not good for California and vice versa. Issues such as paid parking can alter customer buying habits. Douglas County not having business licenses versus SLT charging in some cases tens of thousands also creates a tilted playing field. If California Board members supported the new margin taxes proposed in Nevada that might not go over well with the Nevada board members. An issue like the recent plastic bag ban imposed by the City Council could create a division on a Chamber Board if members from one state supported a ban in California that didn’t affect business in their state. The proposed loop road could be another example with big businesses in one state benefiting by having small businesses taken out just across the state line.
Practical reasons can range from something as seemingly harmless as having two competing high schools in sports rivalries. In Sacramento ethnic Chambers have formed as well as a Rainbow Chamber because they have specific issues they want addressed. Price of membership can be an issue as well as the focus and makeup of the board. Our Chamber Board is made up of small business owners who have their primary focus on supporting and growing the small businesses of our community. The bottom line is that every Chamber of Commerce is worth joining as each one is a voice for the members they have. Just as in business, competition can make each entity better and even keep membership dues lower. Just as in business the customers/members make the ultimate decision as to who represents them best. Sometimes it is two Chambers like we have here or in places like Sacramento, an amazing sixteen chambers of commerce.