Different chambers, different approaches

“The Ashland Chamber of Commerce plays an important part in bringing the community together,” says Pam Marsh, city councilor in Ashland, OR. For the last 30 years, although the Ashland chamber coordinates community issues forums and hosts a discussion series to introduce all candidates to local people, it does not endorse candidates at any level, and does not provide funding for any candidate with a PAC. “Avoiding politics really enables our Chamber to reach out to every part of the community,” Marsh says. In Salem, the Salem Area chamber of Commerce endorses candidates and funds their campaigns through its Create Jobs PAC. Advocacy is emphasized at the local, regional and state level, with prominent links on the organization’s website to its PAC, to its positions on policy matters and to current openings on City of Salem boards and commissions, bodies the chamber encourages members to apply for. “If we had a Chamber that took positions on these things instead of trying to simply educate, it would splinter the community.” -Pam Marsh, Ashland City Council Nick Williams, Director of Public Affairs for the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, says the approach of the local organization is inclusive in its own way. “Our process and transparency,” he says, “is thought of as a model in Oregon that numerous chambers around the state are beginning to replicate.” Chambers of commerce operate independently...

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