Many cities across Texas have a local chamber of commerce. But few are accredited with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This week – after years of planning – the Midland Chamber announced it had done just that.
Bobby Burns, President and CEO of the Midland Chamber of Commerce, says, “We want to be influential. We want to be impactful. We want it to be relevant. We want it to matter.”
Laura Roman, President of the Board, explains, “Only three percent of all the chambers of commerce receive accreditation. Meaning out of about 7,000 chambers across the country, only about 200 have gone through and received the accreditation process. I think it’s easy to set up in a community an organization of businesses and call it a Chamber of Commerce. And we decided with Midland businesses growing, that this was something that was very important for us to do at this time.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is known as a powerful lobbying group that supports conservative issues. The drugstore chain CVS made headlines this week when it said it would cut ties with the national chamber after reports that it was involved with the tobacco lobby – that’s in opposition to CVS interests.
But Roman appreciates their weight, saying “Well, it’s not a problem. I would say that all Chambers have to be careful on how much lobbying that they do. But on behalf of businesses, that’s one of the reasons why they organize.”
Steve Thomas, the former board chairman in Midland, agrees that lobbying is part of the attraction. He says, “We became very politically active at the local and state level primarily. And now as an accredited chamber, we can also work at the national level.”
He says their agenda shouldn’t surprise anyone. “Well, the typical issues of water, transportation, a good education system, quality-of-place, all the things that we need to be able to recruit and sustain a very strong business community.”
And to have a bigger voice at the national level, in oil & gas and other industries.