With more than 2,000 members buying into the notion that knowledge is power, the Orange County Chamber of Commerce (OCCC) is among the state’s largest and most active. Hardly a week goes by that the Chamber isn’t running multiple seminars, breakfasts, one-on-one meetings with consultants and conferences for its constituents, all designed to provide information about how to run profitable businesses.
Photo courtesy of Orange County Chamber of Commerce
Orange County Chamber of Commerce, Events, Activities, and Initiatives
“It’s easy to understand our mission,” says Chamber president John D’Ambrosio. “We judge the organization by asking the question, ‘Have we helped the business community make money today?’” Meanwhile, the OCCC subscribes to County Executive Ed Diana’s position when he says, “We’re also trying to create a place that our children want to come back to.”
Obviously, that only happens if there’s a thriving economy to support Orange County’s 380,000 plus residents. D’Ambrosio likes to say that the Chamber’s menu of services to its members ranges from “soup to nuts” – in other words, “everything necessary to create an environment where business succeeds.”
Chamber member and Chairman of the Board of Directors Donna Johnson shares that view. “Businesses constantly need things that are new and different. At the OCCC, we are busy creating those new ideas.”
Functioning businesses that relocate to Orange County usually arrive as a result of the OC Partnership’s efforts. More often than not, the OC Business Accelerator has a hand in homegrown start-ups, with the IDA a key component of all economic development initiatives since it can provide tax incentives and financing. But once the recruiting and nurturing is finished, it’s the Chamber’s turn to work side by side with members.
“The business community does not like a duplication of effort,” D’Ambrosio says about the working relationship between county government agencies, the Partnership, Accelerator, IDA and Pattern for Progress public policy research and planning institute. “There’s an agreement among us that everybody should do what they do best.”
Many segments of the business community rely heavily on the Chamber’s expertise, and with good reason: D’Ambrosio has headed the organization for nearly 30 years, making him the longest-serving Chamber executive in New York State. And the Chamber staff is a veteran one, boasting a skill-set that can only be gained from years of experience.
A smorgasbord of programs is available to Chamber members, including counseling sessions with staff and retired executives, promotional and networking opportunities, and a couponing gambit in which members offer discounts for a variety of products and services.
The Chamber maintains nine different committees devoted to such disciplines as marketing, consulting, government initiatives and education. There’s also a committee for membership and events, ranging from the Chamber’s annual gala to a golf tournament and a business expo.
Another Chamber offering is the Entrepreneurial Assistance Program (EAP), which is designed to help minorities, women and dislocated workers launch new businesses. Besides providing assistance in such familiar areas as refining business objectives, honing management skills and developing near and long-term marketing plans, the EAP helps entrepreneurs obtain funding from several different sources.
Businesspeople between the ages of 21 and 40 can be part of a committee dubbed Young Professionals. Participating professionals not only share their talents and expertise with each other, but also with more established, senior businesses.
In addition to such a comprehensive array of services, the Chamber offers a group health plan that is particularly important given the profile of its membership, a majority of whom are small businesses with 10 employees or less. Health, dental and vision plans are available from several sources at group rates.