In September, Rick Weldon was appointed the president and CEO of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce and promptly set forth a path to rebranding the Chamber, reshaping its mission and zeroing in on what it should represent going forward for Frederick County businesses.
To identify those necessary adjustments, Weldon sent out surveys to the Chamber’s members and its board of directors. The survey feedback helped Weldon and the board of directors collaborate to construct a plan for the Chamber’s future.
“What came out of that was this perception that we should be the most credible, non-political influencer of public opinion in Frederick County,” Weldon said. “The reason for that is we’re the only entity that exists in Frederick County that has private sector members, public sector members, and then 130 nonprofits as paying members of our chamber. You can’t find that any other place you go.”
With the variety of businesses and organizations that the Chamber of Commerce serves, there was an emphasis during the rebranding to promote what a membership can do to advance specific entities.
For nonprofit organizations, Weldon pointed to their advocacy with an example of the Chamber of Commerce fighting to allow nonprofits to receive donated products from area businesses for fundraising efforts. Under current Maryland state law, nonprofits must purchase those goods, which erodes the amount of money they raise. Weldon said that this year, a bill will pass in both houses and Gov. Larry Hogan will sign into law that allows nonprofits to accept donated products to use in fundraising efforts, which is in part because of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce being the loudest advocate for that change.
Small businesses who employ 50 employees or less comprise 90 percent of the Chamber of Commerce’s membership. For those small businesses, the Chamber helps them connect with other businesses in the area, make their business stand out, and hosts workshops and webinars about important business topics, which include: using social media to market, hiring an employee, employee morale, using new technology, and much more.
Frederick’s larger businesses benefit from their membership in the Chamber with advocacy on larger-scale topics that could assist their business ventures. Past Board of Directors Chair Jon-Mikel Bailey gave the example of the Chamber advocating for a full service hotel and conference center in Frederick’s historic and scenic downtown area.
Programs and committees within the Chamber of Commerce help identify and funnel ideas that meet pressing needs for each those different entities. The Nonprofit Alliance, Generation Connect, and Entrepreneur Council each meet once a month to roll ideas up. The Public Policy Committee, which includes public, private, and nonprofit members, then takes that funnels those big ideas and shared human values to the 25-member board of directors, which also has representation from all three factions. Finally, the board of directors constructs a plan from the idea stream that will pursue the needs that their members conveyed to them.
Leadership at the Chamber of Commerce embrace the diverse business climate that exists in Frederick. The size of the business is not the only element that differentiates chamber members, it’s also the type of business. The Chamber of Commerce’s membership ranges from nonprofits to retail and from education to health services.
No matter the size or type of business, Weldon said the Chamber of Commerce makes a concerted effort to retain them and ensure they’re supported in ways that allow them to enjoy the growth and longevity they desire as members.
The other component of the Chamber of Commerce’s business model is recruiting new members. With this new direction, the Chamber hopes to expand their reach with a clear vision and outline of the member benefits, especially to the growing number of startups in Frederick County.
The change in branding for the Chamber of Commerce comes one year after the organization moved to the ROOT building in Downtown Frederick to increase the collaboration with several economic and business organizations in the city and county.
“The ROOT building shows Frederick County businesses looking in from other places that there is a centralized hub of the sort of business controls in Frederick County,” Bailey said. “Everybody’s speaking with one unified voice that we have so much potential in this county, we can do so much, and we’re all now here working together to make that all a reality.”
EDCO has been a member of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce since 1978, which was shortly after our co-founders Leo Swan and Ed Harding moved the company from Silver Spring to Frederick. Since then, the Chamber of Commerce has played a key role in helping support our expansions in building size, employee size and engagement with our area business leaders.