#WhyChamber: Chamber 101
What is a Chamber of Commerce and how do they impact communities?
“A chamber of commerce is an organization of businesses seeking to further their collective interests, while advancing their community, region, state or nation. Business owners in towns, cities and other territories voluntarily form these local societies/networks to advocate on behalf of the community at large, economic prosperity and business interests. Chambers have existed in the US for more than two centuries, with many having been established before the jurisdictions they represent…
Chamber missions vary, but they all tend to focus to some degree on five primary goals: Building communities (regions/states/nations) to which residents, visitors and investors are attracted; Promoting those communities; Striving to ensure future prosperity via a pro-business climate; Representing the unified voice of the employer community; and Reducing transactional friction through well-functioning networks.” - (Association of Chamber of Commerce Professionals, About Chambers of Commerce)
What is the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce?
The Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce is a member-driven organization representing hundreds of businesses and organizations, focused on helping members grow and succeed in Northeastern PA. We are dedicated to local businesses of all sizes, to the diversity of our workforce and industrial base, and to the vitality and quality of life in our community.
- We connect, innovate and elevate our local businesses, community and economy.
- We build value to attract businesses to the area.
- We build sustainability to create legacy businesses.
- We build upon our core business value propositions to make it built to last.
- We advocate on business related policy and government affairs for our members with our NEPA, State and Federal leaders.
Our core priorities are: Elevating the Valley, Connecting the Valley, and Innovating the Valley.
Elevating the Valley:
To us, elevating the Greater Wyoming Valley means elevating the businesses and organizations that call this region home, as well as the current and up and coming leaders who strive to make our area better, stronger, and more equitable each day.
To achieve this, we have developed programs and services to assist organizations of all types and sizes at any point in their growth lifecycle, and act as an advocate for the needs of our business community. We work to bring together and provide development opportunities for our area's best and brightest - from the students and young professionals that will become our next visionary leaders, to the business leaders and professionals who work tirelessly to move our region forward. We have developed over fifty educational, networking, and professional development events that are held each year, and are open to our entire community.
Connecting the Valley:
Five years ago, through our Wilkes-Barre Connect program, we embarked on a journey to re-store, re-brand, and re-imagine the Chamber, guided by our fundamental principles of a strong commitment to community, business, workforce, and economic development. As a result, we have seen transformational changes in the community and in our organization. As a community, the Greater Wyoming Valley has grown its business base and has attracted new businesses to the area. We have done so by leveraging a coalition of our ABCs (academic, business, and community) leaders to incubate innovation around entrepreneurial, economic, and community development. More importantly, we have accomplished this through strategic regional partnerships to truly make the Wyoming Valley a great place to live, work, and play.
In 2020, our organization’s foundation partnered with the county to start the 2020 Luzerne County Ready initiative, which helped businesses get back open sooner during the COVID-19 lockdown earlier in the year. Additionally, alongside our Chamber of Commerce arm, we have made strides in our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative and project pivot that has allowed us to reach out to over 300 businesses in our area and come up with solutions to help business industries in our area pivot in the COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 world that will be a part of the new normal. We have worked with our Women's Council, Young Professionals Council, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council to diversify our programming and outreach to engage a broader group of passionate community leaders who can push our organization forward. In 2021, we have also just launched a brand new Nonprofit Council as well, to assist the charitable organizations in our region and connect them with much needed resources locally.
Find out more about our Foundation and our supporters here.
Find out more about all of our networks and councils here.
Innovating the Valley:
Innovating the Valley is the priority of our Certified Economic Development Organization, the Greater Wilkes-Barre Industrial Fund. The Greater Wilkes-Barre Industrial Fund assists in providing low-interest loans to business and industry through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) and other public business financing programs.
In the past year, the Greater Wilkes-Barre Industrial Fund has pivoted many of its core offerings to meet the challenges presented by COVID-19. In March, PIDA announced their COVID-19 Working Capital Access (CWCA) loan program, and we were in an authorized group to handle application submissions. Through the weeks following, our team interfaced with approximately 120 small business owners in NEPA, working with them to put together their loan applications and submit them for review. We were able to secure over $1.9 million in working capital loans for 24 local businesses, protecting approximately 260 local jobs. If more funding becomes available in the future, our organization is ready to be there as a resource to help our small businesses navigate the process.
Our Reimagined Future:
A year ago, we created our 2020-2022 Strategic Plan. Last year, we re-branded our organization and returned to our Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce name. This year, we launched a brand-new website to better connect our members and our community.
Our goals aligned to connect, innovate, and elevate this area. We are committed to accelerating the economic engine of the region by fostering innovation, connecting our resources, and elevating and advocating for the community. Our vision never shifted but we are now adapting to a post-COVID world - being the dynamic force in connecting the community, building economic innovation, and elevating the quality of life in the region. We encourage and welcome any and all businesses, students, and community members to join with us as we continue to reimagine our future as we elevate the valley, the place we all call home, together.