A chamber of commerce is a voluntary organization of businesses seeking mutual prosperity while advancing the interests of their community, region, state or nation. Chambers have existed in the U.S. for more than two centuries, with many having been established before the political jurisdictions they represent.
Most chambers are independent and led by private-sector employers. They are self-funded and organized around boards/committees of volunteers. Chamber missions vary, but they all tend to focus on five primary goals:
- Building communities (regions/states/nations) that attract residents, visitors and investors
- Promoting those communities
- Striving to ensure future prosperity via a pro-business climate
- Representing the unified voice of the employer community
- Reducing transactional friction through well-functioning networks
Chambers seek sustained prosperity of their community/region, built on thriving employers. Most are ardent proponents of the free market system, resisting attempts to overly burden private sector enterprise and investment.
Local businesses voluntarily pay dues to their chamber, and it’s not unusual for non-profits, quasi-public and even public sector employers to pay dues to belong. The membership, acting collectively, elects a board of directors and/or executive council to set policy for, and guide the workings of, the chamber. The board or executive committee hires a chief executive and authorizes an appropriate number of staff to run the organization.
In most countries, use of the term "chamber of commerce" is regulated by statute, although this is not the case in the U.S. Only trademark, copyright and domain name rules protect a chamber’s identity. Only state corporation law defines their existence and reason for being. While most chambers work closely with government, they are not a government entity.
Globally, there are more than 12,000 chambers listed in the official World Chambers Network registry. In the U.S., there are roughly 3,000 chambers of commerce with at least one full-time staff person, and thousands more established as strictly volunteer entities.
The American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) has more than 7,000 professional members in more than 1,200 chambers of commerce mainly in the U.S. but also in Canada and in a dozen other foriegn countries. They represent local, regional, and state chambers of all sizes. These CEOs and their executives in communications, government relations, community development, membership and more, join ACCE to build their skills in creating a leading community organization.
The buying power of chamber professional is enormous. Chamber budgets run from the tens of thousands in smaller communities to millions in large metropolitan areas, and chamber executives are responsible for managing these funds. Collectively, ACCE's member budgets exceed $1 billion.
ACCE member interests in products and/or services are varied, including:
- Economic development
- Small business development
- Global economy
- Government relations
- Public policy
- Conventions and tourism attractions
- Health insurance and benefit programs
- Childcare and education
- International travel
- Social Media