Why joining a chamber of commerce is essential to building business relationships
There’s a saying in business that to make money, you need to spend money.
Experts say one of the smartest expenses a businessperson can take on is joining a chamber of commerce, which can be one of the best forums to build business relationships.
Southern Nevada has dozens of chambers, and while each caters to a different demographic, they all share a common goal: help businesses grow.
“We all do different things, and all of the things we do are the same,” said Scott Muelrath, president of the Henderson Chamber of Commerce. “The chamber of commerce landscape has changed in the post-recession era. As an organization, you have to figure out what you’re good at and what your niche is.”
Most of the local chambers offer networking events — cocktail mixers, breakfasts or lunch meetings, often with expert speakers. Some provide small business insurance plans while others help members start companies through business incubator programs.
Given the bevy of options, it’s all about finding the right fit for a business owner.
“Visit them all and find one that fits your needs,” suggested Terry Wong, president of the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce. “If you need grassroots-type of business referrals, join one that offers networking opportunities. Networking isn’t going to happen because you pay a membership due. You get out of it what you put into it.”
And experts recommend business leaders join more than one chamber, provided they have different purposes.
“I’m a member of both (the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Urban Chamber of Commerce),” said Shaundell Newsome, president of Sumnu Marketing and a member of the Urban Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors. “I like each of their goals and missions.”
Below is a guide to several of the valley’s chambers:
Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce
Address: 8363 W. Sunset Road, Suite 250, Las Vegas
President: Kristin McMillan
Dues: $500 annually
The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce is the largest in Southern Nevada and is open to companies of all sizes, from large corporations all the way down to small businesses.
The Las Vegas and North Las Vegas chambers merged in 2012 to create the Metro Chamber of Commerce.
“It gave (North Las Vegas businesses) the opportunity to come in, as part of the brand we’ve built, and take of advantage of that,” McMillan said.
By virtue of its size, the Metro Chamber is among the more powerful of the local organizations. It has three spots on the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association’s board of directors and representatives at local, state and federal levels.
“We have a more macro focus,” McMillan said. “We have more resources to get involved in government advocacy. We can use our leadership and our credibility to really help the community move forward.”
The Metro Chamber hosts more than 100 events a year for members, including networking mixers and topical meetings. It also hosts a yearly Business Expo that attracts about 150 exhibitors and more than 2,000 attendees.
“That’s why people join the chamber of commerce — to build relationships,” McMillan said.
Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce
Addresses: 300 N. 13th St.; 2900 Stewart Ave., Las Vegas
President: Otto Merida
Dues: $250-$5,000 annually*
The Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce is one of the nation’s largest Hispanic chambers and the second largest in Southern Nevada.
Founded in 1976, the chamber isn’t limited to those of Hispanic descent. It is open to all businesses leaders who want to reach the Hispanic community.
“We serve as a bridge that can help you open the market to go into the Hispanic community, which is growing,” Merida said.
The Latin Chamber hosts mixers, golf tournaments and business luncheons. It also offers small business grants from $5,000 to $15,000 for worthy companies and scholarships for students. Members volunteer as sponsors for young people to advise them and help them land jobs.
“When you’re a successful businessman, we think it’s important” to give back to the community and help the state, Merida said.
The Latin Chamber also offers free tax preparation for people with incomes of less than $51,000. This year, the chamber filed 1,100 returns.
Merida said membership has increased steadily as the economy recovers from the recession. He expects the trend to continue.
“The Hispanic community has really blossomed,” Merida said. “As the recession disappears, we’ll have people come in.”
Henderson Chamber of Commerce
Address: 590 S. Boulder Highway, Henderson
President: Scott Muelrath
Dues: $290-$1,250 annually*
The Henderson Chamber of Commerce isn’t affiliated with the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, but the two work together often.
Even so, Henderson on its own is one of the more stable chambers of commerce in Southern Nevada. With 900 members, it is larger than many of its counterparts but still small enough that Muelrath and his staff are accessible to members.
“Our mantra is ‘Large enough to be relevant, small enough to be personal,’” Muelrath said. “We’re large enough from an advocacy standpoint with government affairs, and we’re involved with all of those discussions.
“The thing that makes us unique is that we’re small enough to be personal and that our size is a strength. We can personally provide members with that they need.”
Muelrath gives out his direct office line and cellphone number to chamber members.
The Henderson Chamber of Commerce also works in conjunction with the Henderson Foundation to run the Henderson Business Resource Center, one of the longest-running business incubators in the state.
The chamber also hosts small business seminars.
Nevada Holistic Chamber of Commerce
Address: 4485 S. Buffalo Drive, Las Vegas
Director: Heidi Anderson
The Nevada Holistic Chamber of Commerce is geared toward wellness and holistic businesses, but it is open to anyone who wants to join.
It hosts mixers and educational events. Members receive discounts at local businesses and are listed in a member directory.
Sin City Chamber of Commerce
Address: 6955 N. Durango Drive, Suites 1115-1321, Las Vegas
President: Loretta Holt
Dues: $200-$350 annually*
The Sin City Chamber of Commerce embraces the spirit of Las Vegas’ nickname. It is open to all businesses but caters to adult establishments and gay and lesbian-geared companies.
The chamber hosts a variety of special events, including golf tournaments, business awards, holiday parties and toy drives.
It was founded in 2004 and features an active database of 18,000 executives, entertainers and press contacts.
Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Nevada
Address: 3690 S. Eastern Ave., Las Vegas
President: June Beland
Dues: $175-$5,000 annually*
The statewide Women’s Chamber of Commerce focuses on women-owned small businesses.
Along with the hosting networking meetings, it organizes the annual Athena International Leadership Awards banquet, which recognizes women who have positively impacted their communities.
June Beland founded the chamber in 2002.
Boulder City Chamber of Commerce
Address: 465 Nevada Way, Boulder City
President: Beth Vandenberg
Dues: $205-$532 annually*
Because Boulder City is so small, the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce has a dual role. It not only helps businesses grow, it also serves as the city’s tourism department and helps with economic development.
“The other city chambers have different entities that handle those perks,” Vandenberg said.
But membership is strong.
“We have a wide variety of businesses, from handymen and bug men to insurance salesmen,” Vandenberg said. “We have masseuses and physical therapists. It’s all-encompassing.”
Not all of the chamber’s members are based in Boulder City. Some are from the surrounding areas but want to extend their business to the small town.
“We want (businesses) to stay open,” Vandenberg said. “We help drive people into town and spend money at our local businesses with our events and advertising.”
Urban Chamber of Commerce
Address: 1951 Stella Lake Lane, Suite 26, Las Vegas
President: Napoleon McCallum
Dues: $200-$600 annually*
Originally called the Black Chamber of Commerce, officials changed the name to the Urban Chamber of Commerce to be more inclusive because the chamber embraces all minority small business owners.
“The Urban Chamber of Commerce is about developing and building small businesses,” Newsome said. “Particularly African-American businesses, but overall, minority businesses. There is a common thread.”
Newsome said most minority business owners face similar challenges.
“Entrepreneurship is a gamble,” he said.
To help budding entrepreneurs, the Urban Chamber hosts seminars, helps with marketing and referrals and runs the Business Success Center, a business incubator.
Newsome also hosts a weekly radio show to address challenges new business owners may face.
“It gives them an understanding about whether they’re ready to start a business,” he said.
Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce
Address: 6272 Spring Mountain Road, Suite 100, Las Vegas
President: Terry Wong
Dues: $150-$300 annually*
Terry Wong remembers coming to Las Vegas from Los Angeles and needing to build his chiropractic practice. He joined the Asian Chamber of Commerce and almost immediately began recruiting patients.
“It’s invaluable,” Wong said. “I have met a lot of individuals and gathered my business through referrals.”
While it is one of the smaller chambers in the area, the Asian Chamber of Commerce uses its size to its advantage. Its compact membership allows business owners to form personal relationships with one another.
“We try to make our business pieces fit,” Wong said. “We have a strong connection with all of the community. Community leaders are connected with the Asian Chamber. Our charter members are involved with the chamber’s operations.”
The group also isn’t predominantly Asian, as its name suggests. Wong estimated that 50 percent of its members are non-Asian businesspeople looking to extend their brands.
“We have positioned ourselves as one of the better resources in town,” Wong said. “We try to do a lot of hands-on referrals. Our membership and our board specifically ask if we can make introductions to make one-on-one connections.”
Chicagoans in the Desert
President: Mary Romano
Dues: $225 annually
Chicagoans in the Desert is 80 percent chamber of commerce, 20 percent social club.
Started in 2011 by Mary Romano, the group helps Chicago transplants find their footing in Las Vegas.
“When you leave Chicago, you’re cutting your roots and trying to grow them in the rock we have in the desert,” Romano said. “I want to be able to help people in business and corral the more than 200,000 people that come into the desert.”
The chamber hosts luncheons — at businesses owned by Chicago natives — and social events, including watching Chicago sports. The chamber also takes part in community service events that help the homeless in Las Vegas and Chicago.
Las Vegas Green Chamber of Commerce
Address: 2300 W. Sahara Ave., Suite 800, Las Vegas
President: Gregory St. Martin
Dues: $100-$500 annually*
The Las Vegas Green Chamber of Commerce is the first of its kind in Nevada. The chamber focuses on helping businesses become more eco-friendly.
Members are given the opportunity to meet other eco-conscious business leaders. The chamber also is connected to similar green chambers across the country, offering members a chance to meet a national audience with similar philosophies.
Las Vegas India Chamber of Commerce
Address: 3667 Dutch Valley Drive, Las Vegas
Dues: $25-$1,000 annually*
The Las Vegas India Chamber of Commerce aims to bring together Indian businesses to form a cohesive business community.
Along with networking and educational events, the chamber helps members travel to India for business or pleasure by offering packaged tours. It also promotes Las Vegas to Bollywood film directors and producers.
*Dues vary based on number of employees. Corporate sponsorships also run higher, while nonprofit groups receive membership discounts.