I’ve been working at the Burlington Chamber of Commerce for about 15 years now and I’ve noticed a fairly common misperception about what a Chamber of Commerce actually is.
Often when I’m out at an event, someone will ask me what I do for a living. When I tell them, I work at the Chamber of Commerce, it’s not uncommon for them to respond with a remark about city hall; they think the Chamber is a department of the city and that the Chamber is paid for with city taxes. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Burlington Chamber of Commerce is NOT a department of city hall, nor does it get any funding from city hall. The Chamber is a fully independent, non-profit business association. All of the Chamber’s funds come from membership dues and other activities (like many of the events that we host). Simply stated, your tax dollars do not fund the Chamber of Commerce.
As a matter of fact, Chamber by-laws do not permit any elected officials to sit on our Board of Directors (Board members must step down if they decide to run for office). This eliminates any conflicts of interest that could arise when the Chamber Board discusses policies that will be delivered to various levels of government. While the Chamber is not a part of city hall, we do work with city hall on behalf of our members. Our job is to act as an advocate for our members and represent our members’ views and needs to government; that is the extent of our relationship with city hall (and all levels of government). The role of the Burlington Chamber is to make Burlington a better place to live and work.
The separation between the city and the Chamber of Commerce is clear. They are two distinct organizations, each with its own mandate. The Chamber of Commerce is a completely separate entity from the city and exists solely to support the needs of its members.