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Behind the scenes, the chamber of commerce actively serves to protect business interests

Posted: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Terri K. Crain, center, and the SCV Chamber of Commerce team.

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The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce reached a significant milestone when it recently marked 90 years of support for local businesses.

That’s pretty remarkable given the city only became incorporated 27 years ago in 1987, but businesses have long served residents in what once was an outback region of Los Angeles County. Today, its Los Angeles County’s third largest city and Santa Clarita is a home to thousands of companies – both big and small.

And the chamber survived to support not only local businesses, but it helped with the drive for cityhood and was the springboard for the local economic development corporation.

“The chamber is for businesses first, and a byproduct of its efforts is that it benefits the entire community,” said Terri K. Crain, president and CEO of the SCV Chamber of Commerce. “If business is strong, it makes our community stronger.”

Among the activities visible to the community as a whole are the mixers where a small business owner can connect with the CEO of a larger company, Crain said.

“A mixer’s a great place to get in front of the decision maker at a business, or the CEO,” Crain said. “If you’re a smaller business owner, for instance, and you need payroll help but can’t afford to hire a payroll or HR specialist, you can meet someone at one of the mixers to help.”

The chamber also provides educational seminars which help business owners in two ways, she said. Small business owners who need information come together with business owners who want to get in front of potential customers. The chamber provides the meeting space and marketing for the events.

After several years hiatus, the chamber re-introduced a leadership academy last year, offering nine sessions over a period of three-plus months showing people how to grow their business by gaining essential knowledge in a broad base of areas, including: leadership and strategic planning, local government, non-profits, public health, media relations, education and developing environmental and infrastructure to support a business.

Open to non-chamber members as well, the leadership training helps business owners and nonprofits alike gain business knowledge, discover opportunities to serve the community, design leadership roles, develop relationships with business peers and community leaders, and become an overall stronger leader, Crain said.
But, many of the chamber’s functions are invisible to people.

“We watch city council agendas and have meetings with the city manager before council meetings to go over agenda items that might have the potential to negatively impact business,” Crain said.

The chamber has also worked very closely with the city, the SCV Economic Development Corporation, and the Valley Industry Association on regulatory reform issues that businesses need, such as addressing local water issues that affect businesses, and to help streamline the permitting process.

Pressing political issues have also been the subject of many of the chamber’s lobbying efforts, Crain said.

“We take an annual trip to Sacramento and meet face to face with our local legislators and statewide legislators to lobby for legislation that’s good for business, and to lobby against legislation that’s bad for business,” she said.

Last year, the chamber also joined local leaders in Washington D.C. to focus on issues impacting the entire community such as the Cemex mine, high-speed rail, and more, she said.

“And we’re hosting a city council candidate forum so residents have the opportunity to meet all the candidates for city council,” Crain said.

In order to provide services to local businesses, the chamber must sponsor a number of fundraising events throughout the year to offset membership fees.

But keeping the community in mind, the chamber has identified local nonprofits to support as well. Among the many events it organizes was the recently held Santa Colorita 5K Fun Run, which also helped the SCV Education Foundation benefiting public schools locally, she said.

“Membership fees would be so much higher if we didn’t do this,” Crain said. “While we work closely with the city, county and state offices, we are not an arm or branch of any city, county or state office. We’re a nonprofit, stand-alone organization.”

The SCV Chamber of Commerce is only self-supporting through the contributions of its members and the fundraising activities the chamber sponsors, she said.

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