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As Long as We Remember...

May 28, 2012

What Makes Us What We Are?

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Last week, the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 100th anniversary, 100 years of providing a resource for Frederick County businesses of all sizes to grow, employ, invest and prosper.


The inevitable chorus of fussy voices asks: Why do we care about the Chamber of Commerce? The brave (albeit anonymous) contributors on the local newspaper online commentary board wondered whether such an event was remotely newsworthy.


It wasn't too many years ago when a populist county commissioner routinely referred to Chamber staff and members as the Chamber of Communists. His personal take was that the Chamber's sole purpose was to advocate for taxpayers to subsidize the business community.


The Frederick County Chamber has been providing a wide range of services to businesses as diverse as SAIC to a small woman-owned investment advisory business for a century. Most of this work never rises to the level that warrants news coverage; it's fairly mundane stuff like human resources management, social media, and marketing advice and counsel.


A trade association like the Chamber reflects its members. In the case of our Chamber, the majority of the membership is small businesses, less than 10 employees. Many of these are service-related businesses, good people who are busy keeping furnaces, cars, and computers running to fuel the local economy.


Most of the people who fuss about business advocacy target the big employers, probably because those institutions are easy to vilify.


In Frederick County, the larger employers provide crucial services like healthcare, education, and hospitality. Without these functions, Frederick would be a back-water hick town; but then again, that might be exactly what the naysayers want.


For the rest of us, we're happy to celebrate 100 years of concentrated effort to enhance and invigorate our local private sector community. This Chamber, our Chamber, has a long and distinguished history of service.


Take Leadership Frederick County as an example. This program encourages emerging leaders and aspiring executives to learn about our history, politics and institutions through immersion. A nine-month journey through battlefields, farm fields, art galleries, legislative halls and classrooms, 30-40 people bond, build networks and experience the richness and fullness of our great county.


Another example is Generation Connect, a chance for young professionals (20-40 years old) to gather in social settings to get to know one another, what they do for a living, and how they can immediately begin to influence positive changes.


Brown bag seminars, social media conferences, education awards, guest speakers, and Annapolis lobbying represent a small sampling of the benefits of Chamber membership.


Maybe this explains the fact that this Chamber, our Chamber, is increasing membership while many are losing members. Our Chamber boasts over 1,000 active members, and is growing.


This kind of positive momentum isn't an accident. Our Chamber staff is some of best anywhere. Ric Adams, our Chamber's executive, is the perfect person to serve as our lead private-sector ambassador. He is funny, smart, and most of all, well-connected. Ric has friends in every boardroom in the area, and when Ric needs something, he can get it.


Ric's support team at our Chamber is second-to-none. Everyone that works there understands the importance of sustaining a vibrant and vital economy, and they have honed the member service model to the highest degree of efficiency.


Finally, the board of directors of our Chamber reflects a Who's Who of business in Frederick, which is as it should be. Past Chamber boards have been similarly composed, and a large part of the long history of success is attributable to the passion, commitment and sacrifice of board members that have served for the last 100 years.


Happy Anniversary, and here's to another century of service to business in Frederick County.


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