“A chamber of commerce is founded on the belief that people working together can achieve more than any of us can individually. Only by working together will we truly succeed in maintaining a quality community....”
 - Steve Leahy Former CEO and President, Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce


“Treat it [chamber membership] as a long term investment.  What you put in today in dollars or in time will pay off, but it will probably be further down the road in ways you don’t expect.” 
 - Becky McCray, Small Biz Survival-the Rural and Small Town Business Resource


The Basics

Chambers of Commerce are business and community associations, a type of not-for-profit. They are not part of local, state, or federal government and are not usually supported financially by government entities, though they often partner with them to accomplish their work. Chambers are funded by membership dues and non-dues revenue through events, sponsorships, contracts, and sales of various products and services. Most chamber members are small businesses – on average fewer than 20 to 35 employees.  The size of membership in a Chamber varies, but the average is 1000 members.Today’s Chamber, rather than being narrowly focused on one particular industry, issue, cause, or activity, focuses on a broad range of activities and support for businesses AND community. Generally, Chambers of Commerce serve the following purposes:       
  • Chambers refer to a member business.         
  • Most offer publicity for members, through newsletters, website, or brochures.       
  • Chambers generally offer local business news/updates through newsletters, websites, connections and conversation.       
  • Most are active on legislative issues and encourage members to join them in advocating for small business issues.       
  • Chambers are an important avenue of networking for members and the business community.       
  • Some offer group membership benefits: insurance, discounts, or other services.       
  • Chambers may present educational workshops, speakers, trainings and leadership programs.      
  • Chambers often create events to build community and business activity, like festivals, interest shows, business fairs and merchant sales.         
  • Frequently they serve as a clearinghouse of information about the community-for residents, visitors, potential residents and visitors.     
  • Some promote tourism in their community or market their city or community.      
  • Chambers may offer or refer out for business counseling to help members start businesses or solve problems.


The Beginning

As long as there has been commerce, those trading with each other have joined together to protect against enemies, to govern their own conduct, and to influence governing authorities. The first known use of the term “chamber of commerce” occurred in Marseilles, France. It is claimed that the first Chamber appeared there in 1599. Chambers of Commerce then spread to Germany, and throughout Europe.  The first Chamber of Commerce in America was established in New York City in 1768 by John Jacob Astor, John Pierpont Morgan and others.  By 1870, the number of local Chambers had increased to 40. Early U.S. Chambers primarily promoted the sale of materials and goods, outlined the rules of trade, organized markets and the opportunity for sales, even worked to protect goods in transit.  Their activities were limited to those directly connected with commerce or trade.It was much later when local business people understood their success and prosperity depended on developing the community as a flourishing whole, that Chambers began serving as a true community organization. 

Today there are over 7,800 Chambers in the U.S.

The Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce was incorporated in 1945 and is the second oldest Chamber in Kitsap County.  Presently, the Chamber has 350 members, a Board of Directors, full time Executive Director and part-time Administrative Assistant.  While a relatively small Chamber located in a relatively small town, South Kitsap has seen a lot of growth and the City of Port Orchard has entered a revitalization phase. The Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce plans to grow in size and strength along with the community. Join us! Annual Business Memberships begin at $190. Call: 360-876-3505 or go to for more information and for the sources for this article.


Resources:Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Encyclopedia, Mary White-American Small Business News, Becky McCray -Small Biz Survival-the Rural and Small Town Business Resource, Wikipedia and  Ameican Chamber of Commerce Executives.