Starting Out at the Chamber of Commerce
Hello there! My name is Katarina (Kat), and I am a recent SLU graduate working at the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce as a part of the SLU PIC Program. I chose to work at the Chamber because of its role in community development. One of the major roles or purposes of the Chamber is to help develop small businesses by providing resources and networks for economic sustainability and growth, thereby helping to promote and develop the community. So far, I have been spending most of my time at working with the tourism component of the Chamber. Since the Chamber has two interns this year, I am tasked with helping to promote tourism within the county. Even though tourism and community development don’t seem directly related at first, they do have a lot of similarities. Winsome (the other intern) and I are currently working on a grant application for the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to help increase the tourism capabilities. St. Lawrence County has various tourism opportunities - mostly outdoor activities like fishing, hiking, paddling, and cycling. Unfortunately, not many people within the county or region know about most of the opportunities. By obtaining this NYPA and subsequent grants/funding, the Chamber can better promote these unique experiences. If the tourism industry is promoted and more people come to visit St. Lawrence County, they are likely to spend money in the county and help the local businesses. Therefore, from an indirect way tourism is an investment into community development by providing revenue for small businesses to sustain and grow their operations.
Winsome and I had actually started our internships working on a project, for the same NYPA grant, but were focusing on the small business development side of the Chamber. We were trying to essentially re-launch Chamber’s brand and expand the services it offers to help member business. An issue for chambers across the nation is millennial entrepreneurs and Internet networks. Historically, chambers of commerce have been a resource for business to business networking, but with websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, the need for chambers of commerce to provide these networks is reducing. Young and tech-savvy business owners question if it is worth paying to be a member of a chamber when they can find the same services online for free or much cheaper. All chambers, including the St. Lawrence County chamber, face the issue of trying to redevelop themselves to ensure that businesses have a return investment from being a member.
With the guidance of Executive Director Brooke Rouse, Winsome and I were able to think of various ways to redevelop and rebrand the chamber to ensure to local businesses the value of chamber membership. Unfortunately, the project was tabled for the tourism one we are working on now. It was heart-breaking when we were told that we had to restart on a totally different idea. But at least she is keeping the ideas to complete at a later time.