Here’s Kit Cramer, CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, responding to my note asking for more information on the discussion underway at the chamber about its relationship with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
Yes, the Asheville Chamber discussed our membership in the US Chamber at our Board retreat last week.
I have heard from some of our members about their discomfort with some of the US Chamber’s stands so felt it was important for the Board to weigh in. Like our membership, we have members of the Board who are comfortable with the membership and others who are not.
There was general agreement that we want to be a values-driven organization and that we should take a fresh look at our values, vision and mission and let that help drive our decision making. After learning that our dues will not expire until October 31 of 2011, they tabled the issue with the intention of revisiting it after we’ve completed the work.
Until that time, our position is that being a member of the US Chamber is like being a member of a political party: just because you’re a member doesn’t mean you agree with every stand they take. We utilize the membership for tracking legislation and obtaining information about issues that other chambers may also have addressed. They do not guide our local decision making—we do that locally. And unlike the US Chamber, the Asheville Chamber doesn’t endorse political candidates.
So we plan to do our due diligence and then have the Board make a decision.
One way to encourage the Asheville COC to leave the US COC would be for local members appalled by the actions of the US COC to leave the local chapter. Let's see some action here.
I think most Ashvillians and business people know that the Chamber does very little for the city and county and is a non-event for most people living here. The CoC is just a bureaucracy and expensive for small biz owners who see little value.
Here is a list of cities who have left the US Chamber of Commerce in protest (including Boone, NC):
This site has information on companies who have left the US Chamber of Commerce, including Nike and Apple.
This makes my day. I'd vote that we cease our membership and watch how many additional businesses and organizations join up! AMAZING!!! LET"S DO IT!
"Until that time, our position is that being a member of the US Chamber is like being a member of a political party: just because you’re a member doesn’t mean you agree with every stand they take."
Perhaps Ms. Cramer can enlighten us as to which stands taken by the US COC the local COC agrees with and which ones it does not agree with. Until that time it would appear that they are trying to have it both ways — ties with the US COC why trying not to be tainted with its rancid ideology.
I do believe that there are many local COCs around the country that do NOT have any ties with the US COC so I don't think that Asheville would be the first to leave — not that I think there is any chance the Asheville COC would ever do something so bold.
The Asheville Chamber is a mess. Most people don't realize that they take a large amount of funds from Buncombe County government to staff many functions and activities. The Chamber's Economic Development dept. is paid for largely by funds from the county as they outsource that function to the chamber. This dept. has a very poor track record and has a 1970's mindset about economic development in Asheville. They keep thinking the next big manufacturing plant is going to come here. BTW, great job keeping Volvo here!
The Asheville chamber has too large a staff for the work they do. They are mostly a bunch of bureaucrats and former politicos who think all they should do is cut a few ribbons each year.
And what about their Taj Mahal Chamber Building on Montford, across the interstate from downtown. They will be paying off the mortgage on that place for decades to come.
The Asheville Chamber of Commerce does very little for this city and region.
There has to be a first Chamber member to leave the Us chamber and that might make national news,and when it does, how many more city chambers would leave?
Again someone needs to have the courage and leadership to go first. .
As a local small business person, I have been very pleased with Ms. Cramer's open minded approach and attention to the real needs of this diverse business community. That is most appropriate for a local chamber. She is a refreshing addition to the community.
I would respectfully beg to differ with Ms. Cramer regarding the US Chamber's lack of influence on the local chamber's agenda. As the US Chamber has played fast and loose with their membership numbers, called into question the science behind climate change, come out in favor of job outsourcing and poured more money into political races than any other organization not directly associated with a political party, I call into question the objectivity of any information received from the US Chamber. As for legislation tracking, there are other, free sources for that, in particular http://www.thomas.loc.gov, a service of the Library of Congress.
I would also say that the "discomfort" felt by many Asheville Chamber of Commerce members and prospective members in response to the actions of the US Chamber is more akin to "outrage" or "revulsion."
The new head of the Chamber needs to spend time doing her homework about Asheville and the WNC region before she makes too many more CEO pronouncements. This is the same woman who made the recent ridiculous statements about arts and crafts and the local economy. Talk about foot in mouth!
She seems to be following many of the same stupid moves of her predecessor Rick Lutovsky who had to be one of the worst Chamber leaders in recent years.
Kit Cramer is not from this region and it really shows!