That is $105,000 more than the campaign’s original goal of $675,000 and marks the most ever raised in the 25-year history of the Cobb Chamber’s new membership campaign.
“In a down economy, people need their Chamber to be stronger than ever to help with creating a better business climate,” said Kim Menefee, campaign chairwoman and WellStar Health System senior vice president. “People look for new ways to build their businesses and customer bases, and the Chamber provides so many resources to do that. They have programs for small businesses, human resources and marketing, as well as benefits.”
Menefee credited this year’s success to the renewed energy and focus on growing, retaining and attracting businesses that new Chamber leadership — including CEO and President David Connell, Chief Operating Officer Demming Bass and Vice President for Economic Development Brooks Mathis — has brought since they joined this year.
“I really believe that the leadership of the Chamber and the energy that’s going into really focusing and positioning Cobb County as a regional leader is evident,” Menefee said. “People feel the energy and see the positive results the Chamber’s bringing in terms of economic development and otherwise. That is really what’s encouraging and brings a level of excitement. And membership is very important because it is how the Chamber raises the money to perform and make available all the programs that really help improve the community.”
Connell said 389 companies have joined the Chamber since January, with 218 of those joining during the three-month campaign that concluded on June 16. Chamber Vice President of Membership Sharon Mason said the Chamber has held a 90 percent retention rate so far this year, which she said is “very high for a Chamber our size.”
Connell said outside of the Atlanta Chamber, the Cobb Chamber shares the top two spots with the Gwinnett Chamber in terms of being the largest Chambers in the state. Connell said it is hard to know who is No. 1 and who is No. 2, as the Gwinnett Chamber counts multiple people from one company as members, and Cobb would only count that company as a member.
Connell said the campaign also broke records for Chairman’s Club membership — a cost of $5,000 to any new or existing member wanting to join — as 220 companies have upgraded their memberships to the club level this year.
Menefee said the campaign included 28 teams representing more than 100 organizations, which competed against each other. No volunteers were ever paid for their time, though Menefee said the top 30 earners won a free trip to San Paul, Puerto Rico, this summer. Menefee said Connell, Mason and Cobb Chamber Chairman Rob Garcia also went on the trip, and the winners were allowed to bring their spouses.
Mason said the WellStar team brought in the most new members overall with 36 new members collectively, while the Leadership Programs team, which was made up of Leadership Cobb alum, raised the most money with $122,411. Individually, Lisa Crossman of the Leadership Programs team was the top individual dollar producer, while Kim Paris of WellStar individually brought in the most new members.
Connell said the Chamber charges a flat annual fee of $400 for new companies to join the Chamber, and companies can elect to pay more for various upgrades to the membership, such as Chairman’s Club status. Connell also said the Chamber is in a trial period where discounts are being offered to any businesses that are members of one of the county’s 11 business associations who opt to also join the Chamber. The discount was $100 in July, and is $50 in August, Connell said. The trial will conclude at the end of this month, Connell said, and he and presidents of the business associations will come together next summer to review the trial offer and decide if it is worth doing again.
Connell said the Chamber’s collaboration with the business associations in all aspects of economic development is vital to growing and retaining Cobb’s business community. Connell said the Chamber has around 7,000 members, and this year’s record-breaking numbers is based on more existing businesses deciding to join the Chamber rather than more new businesses coming to the county and deciding to join.
“This period we’re in right now is the worst economy since the Great Depression, but at same time, our campaign has raised more dollars than any campaign over the last 25 years,” Connell said. He also promised that with the growth in membership, the Chamber would soon be offering more programs to its members.
“People are excited about where we’re going. We’ve developed a new vision for the Chamber, in that it belongs to its members. They are investing in their Chamber to grow their businesses and the Cobb business community.”