Although nearly every large city has a Chamber of Commerce, their quality and reputation vary tremendously. For a local Chamber of Commerce to thrive, it needs to create real value for its members. Local businesses join a Chamber of Commerce in order to network and create commercial opportunities for themselves. Those that do so successfully attract an abundance of members and thrive. Happily, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce fits that profile:

The [Grand Rapids] community is recognized as offering “urban sophistication and small-town warmth”; The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce works tirelessly to create opportunities for the success of its members. Chamber President and CEO Rick Baker listed the three primary goals of generating success as: building a magnetic community that draws talent and businesses, advocacy for businesses, and developing specific programs that target the needs of business.

Robyn Johnson, National Chamber Review (Issue 2, 2012)

What does the Grand Rapids Chamber offer? Frankly a ton of programs and events: the ATHENA Award programs, Breakfast with Legislators, Business by Referrals, Grand Rapids House Party, Center for Community Leadership, Culture Experience Tour, the Chamber Open, Business Exchange Luncheon, a CEO Roundtable, and Health Care Summit. And that’s the short list.

They also provide an abundance of discounts and business resources. With membership as a tax-deductible business expense, the Grand Rapids Chamber has been able to attract over 2,700 member businesses.

Value Proposition

How is it that the Chamber attracts as many members as it does? Certainly the “Chamber” brand helps. No one needs to explain the Chamber to participants as they would GRAPE. And it certainly helps that the Chamber makes extensive efforts to provide real value to its members.  However, the greatest value the Chamber offers is the reputation it confers upon its participants.

Unlike the Better Business Bureau, local chamber of commerce organizations are not publicly funded (although nearly half the public believes they are). However, like the Better Business Bureau, Chamber membership communicates to the public that a company employs good business practices.  Upon learning that a company is a chamber member, “consumers are more likely to patronize a company more often and express favorable opinions about the company” (The Real Value of Joining a Local Chamber of Commerce, The Schapiro Group). In essence, the public rewards companies perceived as trustworthy and involved in the community.

Businesses that join their local Chamber of Commerce actually benefit in several practical ways. Specifically, “small businesses who are chamber members enjoy a 44% increase in consumer favorability rating, 51% increase in consumer awareness, and a 57% increase in local reputation, and 63% increase in likelihood that consumers will patronize the business in the future” (The Schapiro Group).


The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce is THE organization to belong to for businesses seeking to become involved in the local community. For those that belong to the many great and exciting organizations in this city, the Chamber is the readily identifiable common denominator for the “grasstips”.

Post by John M Potter, Host of GRAPE