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Chuck Carpenter: Why we don't care too much about being a top regional chamber

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Chuck Carpenter

Several years ago I quit participating in "The Lists" section of the Dallas Business Journal. As it implies, the DBJ would survey, then publish, the top 25 of all types of Dallas-Fort Worth business categories.

Chuck Carpenter
Chuck Carpenter

Local chambers of commerce, of which there are nearly 100 in the publication region, are ranked by total number of membership accounts. Initially I participated in this process, but it was frustrating because the Denton Chamber of Commerce usually ranked low in the size standings.

The reason is because we've never put much emphasis on the correlation between total number of membership accounts and programs, services and events.

I've been in this profession all of my adult life, and there is a tendency among some of my colleagues to load up the membership report with a bunch of minimum accounts to make the totals appear impressive for the board. Frankly, my experience is that a substantial number of these accounts are merely looking to us to fill their store or restaurant for their grand opening.

The individual we typically work with to provide their crowd and orchestrate their celebration is a corporate marketing person. After that, managers commute up from somewhere in the Mid-Cities with no intent of being part of the community. Consequently, a lot of them are on our "subject to drop" list the following year.

Instead, our philosophy has been to support and promote local-based businesses that "get it," and limit efforts to pad the membership reports. Thanks to 40-plus years of partnerships with the city of Denton and Denton Municipal Electric, we've been able to leverage the value of our members' investments to provide expanded initiatives and significant results.

We've helped put hundreds of thousands of guests in local hotel beds thanks to the hotel occupancy tax agreement that we've administered continuously since 1976. We've had an economic development marketing contract with the city of Denton since 1986, resulting in career opportunities and expansion of the ad valorem tax base.

As an added bonus, we've used part of the economic development funds from the city for a matching grant to provide a certified counselor for the Small Business Development Center through North Central Texas College. We administer tuition, registration and sponsorships for Leadership Denton and Denton County Days in Austin.

The DBJ took the IRS Form 990 filings for the 2015 fiscal year, which ranked the Denton Chamber of Commerce as the fifth-largest in the area. The only chambers that administered more money than Denton were the Dallas Regional, Fort Worth, Arlington and Irving-Las Colinas chambers. I'm particularly pleased to note that we showed a positive net revenue to assets.

Do we want and need more chamber members? Yes, of course. 

We just need to do a better job of communicating to the Denton business community about how we are able to expand their annual membership investment.

CHUCK CARPENTER is president of the Denton Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at dcoc@denton-chamber.org.