Chambers of commerce have long held a physical presence in their communities. Their offices have been a central meeting point for business leaders, small business owners and elected officials to network and discuss local business issues. And, the chamber office is usually a resource to visitors in town looking for maps, guides or other local information.
But, does the chamber of commerce need a building or physical offices to provide benefits to their members and their community?
The Goleta Valley (CA) Chamber of Commerce will soon find out. The chamber will be closing its doors - but not closing for business - and have the employees work from home through several web-based software solutions, allowing them to stay connected and share information without all being in the same location. Note: One of these solutions is WebLink's web-based membership management software, WebLink Connect. :-) For more info about their descision to "go virtual," read "Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce Relocates ... Online"
Yes, the chamber will continue to have events and and other meetings - they will just all be at member locations rather than the chamber's offices. “Chambers are community-based organizations,” says Michael Kramer, a Goleta Valley Chamber member. “Going virtual forces chamber staff to meet in the community they serve."
Sure, there are some examples of virtual chambers of commerce already, but none that I know of that serve a local community. These virtual chambers were designed to exist solely on the internet and serve a certain demographic. The Goleta Valley Chamber's move marks the first time I know of that a chamber with a brick and mortar presence has made the move to a virtual presence.
The trend towards going mobile is increasing, for sure. Last year, the International Data Corporation (IDC), predicted that by year-end 2011, nearly 75% of the U.S. workforce will be mobile. And, Forrester's Consumer Techographics survey showed that telecommuting will rise to include 43% of the U.S. workforce by 2016. A few years ago, Manpower released results of a study showing that 80% of U.S. workers would prefer telecommuting to a physical commute to work.
What is your organization doing to be more mobile? Does your staff use notebook computers that they can take with them? Would your staff be more efficient if they could work from home? Do you have web-based membership management software so your staff can utilize your database from anywhere? What other technology would need to be removed or replaced for your staff to be mobile?
Perhaps the larger question is....is this even a good idea? What are your thoughts? Do chambers of commerce and business association NEED a physical location to be successful and to provide benefits to their members? Please let me know in the comments below.
It will certainly be interesting to see how this move works out for the Goleta Valley Chamber.