Chambers of Commerce: Local Business Resources During Challenging Times

Before the internet made online networks the norm, chambers of commerce provided important forums for meeting, networking and advocating for businesses in localities and industries. Today, as business owners navigate the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, chambers of commerce play key roles in helping owners access local, statewide and national resources.

Here, we take a look at the help offered by several chambers that are located in Pursuit’s lending areas in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. These can be invaluable if your business is still closed, about to reopen or operational and trying to navigate the “new normal.” Most of the resources listed are available to members and non-members, so even if you’re not sure about joining your local chamber right now, take a look at the resources.

What is a chamber of commerce?

For centuries, chambers of commerce provided local businesspeople with a forum to meet and advocate. Over the last century or so, chambers that represent businesses on statewide, national and international levels, as well as chambers that represent specific industries, have developed, too.

Chambers of commerce can help you stay informed about essential information that may otherwise be challenging to find. This includes information on ongoing issues, like changes to interstate or international trade regulations, or updates to current challenges, like the Covid-19 pandemic. Chambers can also be particularly helpful for solopreneurs and small business whose needs are sometimes overlooked or misunderstood when new policies are developed.

Resources offered by chambers of commerce in Pursuit’s lending areas

Chambers of commerce often operate in very localized capacities, which is why there are more than 270 chambers of commerce in New York State, more than 120 in New Jersey and nearly 170 in Pennsylvania.

Here are some examples of the kinds of help they’re offering now, in addition to typical member benefits.

In New York State:

  • Albany/Capital District area: The 2,900-member Capital Region Chamber of Commerce offers a comprehensive range of services that include a reopening guide for businesses; resources for personal protective equipment; access to numerous funding opportunities, including SBA programs; webinars and virtual seminars and much more.
  • Binghamton and Southern Tier area: The Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce has a broad range of information and resources that include business-related news; reopening resources, including a guide for the different phases for various business types; funding opportunities and a downloadable toolkit.
  • Buffalo area: The Buffalo Niagara Partnership is a regional chamber that counts many major employers among its membership list. The BNP’s pandemic-related resources include regular news updates, a reopening guide, webinars and virtual seminars, information on loans and other funding opportunities and more. In addition, the region has nearly two dozen city- and town-based chambers have information specific to initiatives that various municipalities offer. They’re easy to find through a simple online search of the city or town in which your business is located.
  • Long Island area: Long Island is home to numerous chambers of commerce and the island’s diverse business landscape means that businesses here are likely best served by connecting with the town’s or municipality’s closest chamber as a first point of contact. Each has financial resources and information related specifically to each area, including important information on seasonal beach and business openings, tourism-related guidance and more to ensure a safe, healthy and happy reopening this summer.
  • New York City area: The Greater New York Chamber of Commerce is an invaluable and central resource for the vast Covid-19 response resources offered throughout the New York Metro area. There are resources regarding reopening, financial assistance, help for freelancers and other solopreneurs, resources by industry and more.
  • North Country: Businesses in tourism-driven areas like the Adirondacks have specific concerns regarding how to reopen safely and to pivot business models for profitability. The Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Covid-19 Business Resources pages have frequently updated news and information resources, reopening guidelines and ways that owners can advocate for their businesses.
  • Rochester area: The Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce is the city’s and region’s primary chamber. It offers a comprehensive list of local, regional, state and national guidance, funding opportunities, reopening recommendations, public relations suggestions and more.
  • Syracuse area: Syracuse-basedCenterState CEO is one of several business advocacy and chambers of commerce serving the Syracuse metropolitan region. Here you’ll find ongoing and Covid-19 resources, including a reopening toolkit and funding opportunities.
  • Westchester County area: Given its geographic size and diversity of business needs, Westchester County businesses turn to locally based chambers of commerce, which are found in cities and towns throughout the area. Check the listing for your town or the closest resource. For example, the Mt. Kisco Chamber of Commerce has a listing of resources related to safety, funding and reopening, in particular for two of the area’s primary small business sectors: restaurants and retail.

In New Jersey:

The statewide New Jersey Chamber of Commerce serves businesses across the state and is a great resource for information on the state’s overall Covid-19 response and business requirements. In addition, there are many local chamber listings, including countywide chamber includes pandemic-response information. Some examples of chambers providing more localized information include:

In the greater Philadelphia region:

How to gain more advantages offered by your local chambers of commerce

Chambers of commerce enthusiastically welcome new members. If you’re curious about whether those in your area or industry could be a good fit, contact them to see if you can attend a meeting and networking event without obligation, so that you can get a better feel for what they offer.

Membership in local chambers often gives business owners a voice in important economic-development issues, which can be particularly important for small businesses now, as many changes are on the horizon as we try to figure out how to offer goods and services safely and profitably.

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