Inside the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce
A Year of Notable Accomplishments
July 26, 2005 – Today the Rotary Club of Charleston kicked off our series of lunches at member’s places of business at the Charleston Metro Chamber, hosted by Charles van Rysselberge, CEO and member of our Club since 2003. Van Rysselberge highlighted a successful year at the Chamber, and enlightened Rotarians on the many efforts the Chamber undertakes for its members and our community.
With 2,500 members and a $4 million budget, the oldest local Chamber in America relies on its full time staff and over 900 volunteers to accomplish its five strategic objectives: education, growth, public policy, regional advancement, and resource development.
Within its mission statement, the Chamber has three main priorities, which are executed through a number of councils and campaigns: advancing the region’s economy, improving the quality of life in the region, and making its members successful. Each of these priorities has been accomplished this year through various Chamber initiatives. For example, in the area of advancing the region’s economy, the Chamber supported efforts to keep Charleston off of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list instituted by the Department of Defense. The Chamber compiled data that will hopefully make a strong case in Washington, D.C. for leaving our military installations and jobs here in Charleston.
The Chamber is also very committed to improving the quality of life in our region, which is next on its list of priorities. The Chamber was heavily involved in the efforts to pass the half-cent sales tax, and headed up a campaign to educate the public as to what exactly the tax would provide and for how long. The tax passed, and as a result, Charleston County can look forward to improved roads, mass transit and greenspace. CARTA, our public transportation system for the region, was saved thanks to this tax, which is a critical component of a region of our size.
Finally, the Chamber strives to make its members successful. Because 90+% of the Chamber’s membership is small businesses, there is a real need for representation and education for its member businesses. The Chamber provides opportunities for its members to succeed through its Leadership Charleston program, networking events, Area Business Councils (ABCs), and other member-to-member opportunities provided by the Chamber and its staff.
As the Chamber welcomes Brian Moody as its new Chair for 2005-2006, van Rysselberge recognized our own Rotarians who have been past Chairs of the Chamber and thanked them for their efforts, including Anita Zucker, Bill Scarborough and Doug Donehue.
Rotarians also enjoyed a video from the Chamber highlighting their successful year, which included such events as the Legislative Reception, held every year at the SC Aquarium, the Annual Gala, Delegate’s trip to Washington, D.C., Total Resource Campaign (where there Chamber raised $1.4 million to finance new and existing programs to support their mission), as well as member networking events, and Ambassador and volunteer efforts.
Van Rysselberge answered questions regarding the Chamber’s relationship to other organizations, including the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and other local Chambers. He assured us that the Chamber works closely with these and other organizations, and has good relationships with all. In fact, the Charleston Metro Chamber came together with the Berkeley and Dorchester chambers over 10 years ago to create and initially fund the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, which today markets the Charleston region for economic development. The Chamber has also worked with the CVB on such hospitality issues as the mini bottle, the smoking ban in Charleston, and the culinary arts.
We are very proud that our Chamber has been in existence since 1773, and that its mission and objectives have helped this region achieve its reputation as a great place to live, work and raise a family. Thank you Charles, Chamber staff, and volunteers for all your hard work!
By Amy Riley, Keyway Committee