Quigley: Chambers mirror businesses, community
The Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce & Industry celebrated its 95th Annual Awards on Jan. 31, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to expound on the value chambers provide to their communities in general and member businesses in particular.
In some communities, chambers serve as the voice of business to their elected officials and municipal administrators, often providing a counter balance to the wants of residents. Some even go so far as endorsing candidates for public office and/or have established Political Action Committees (PAC) to contribute financially to those whom they support.
While nonpolitical in nature, the Elmhurst Chamber is legislatively active at the local, township, county, state and national levels. We often work in partnership with the United States Chamber of Commerce and Illinois Chamber of Commerce, as well as economic development bodies and business associations, on issues impacting our member businesses. We’ve spoken out on taxes (property and retail sales), parking, traffic, redevelopment and more.
Back in 2000, the Elmhurst Chamber was the first major organization to endorse Elmhurst Public School District 205’s referendum to rebuild York Community High School. Our endorsement was based on the economic development aspects related to housing values and business recruitment, not merely the educational needs of our schoolchildren. While only one in four families had a public school student, the referendum passed by nearly a 3-to-1 margin.
In some communities, chambers serve as a marketing partner with member businesses, enhancing their outreach to resident consumers, nonresident shoppers, visitors and tourists.
The Elmhurst Chamber has partnered with the City of Elmhurst since 2011 on the “Got It! in Elmhurst” shop local information campaign. Our unique campaign has helped increase the city’s annual revenue from retail sales taxes by hundreds of thousands of dollars in each year, while expending only $60,000 of the $100,000 budget total.
Our website (elmhurstchamber.org) with new smartphone user-friendly mobile web page annually draws nearly 1 million hits from some 100,000 visits, and posts to our social media pages reach nearly 500 Facebook likes and 700 Twitter followers. The Elmhurst Community Directory is direct mailed to some 19,100 residences, businesses and post office boxes, as in the Elmhurst Street Map. Some 600 New Resident Greeter Boxes are hand delivered each year.
In some communities, chambers serve as the organizer of civic and community special events ranging from festivals to concerts to parades to fundraisers.
Our Chamber organizes Elmhurst’s Memorial Day Parade and assists with the St. Patrick’s Day and Spring Road Pet parades. A decade ago, Elmhurst’s last public fireworks show rocketed from the top of downtown Schiller Street parking deck at Elmfest 2004.
John R. Quigley is president and CEO of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce.