The importance of the Pampa Chamber of Commerce

“My granddaughter doesn’t like to go with me to Walmart because I just always run into people,” said Shawna Elliott, Executive Director of the Pampa Chamber of Commerce. “But it’s part of the job, and that’s why I do it. I love interacting with people. I love talking to people.”

Shawna Elliott used to spend her days running around town, dropping in on restaurants and the many wonderful locally owned retail stores — and finding ways to bring business owners together. COVID-19 changed all that.

Through the Chamber she gets to meet tons of impressive people making a difference in Pampa and the community, which she says warms her heart because she loves Pampa.

“I love that my job involves helping businesses thrive and stay in Pampa, ultimately benefiting the local economy, and that we promote Pampa growth,” Elliott said. “Learning about public affairs and various aspects of economic development has also been fascinating,

“We didn’t realize how much we thrive on in-person meetings, on going in for a hug. And now to not be able to do that, it’s flipped the script in how we operate. “

The pandemic has flipped the script for a lot of the country’s thousands of local chambers of commerce. While lots of people may think of their local chamber as the group that sponsors the town Christmas parade or fireworks on the Fourth, their real work is to promote and lobby on behalf of local businesses. That can take different forms depending on the state of the economy, which is rapidly changing during the pandemic.

Just about everywhere, the work of being a chamber executive director has become as unpredictable as the pandemic itself. 

The pandemic hasn’t just put stress on the longevity of local businesses, but on the chambers of commerce that serve them because they rely mainly on membership dues to stay afloat.

“We have an office, We pay rent. We have staff We have expenses,” Elliott said.

The town’s been slammed by the drop-off in tourism. Elliott has started offering membership discounts. 

“Now is not the time for chambers to go away,” she said.

Like everyone else, she’s just trying to figure out how to keep the doors open.

After all these years of being a member and then an employee of the Chamber, Elliott believes it’s what they do more now than ever. 

“While Chambers of Commerce have certainly changed throughout the years, their relevance is a strong as ever because we truly make a difference in the fate of a small businesses and organizations,” Elliott said. “When a business joins the Chamber, they are backed by a team that not only cares about their success, but also has the resources available to help them grow, network, connect and succeed.”

True, every Chamber is different. They are housed in different communities and have developed different personalities and cultures. Their benefits may vary. The resources and partners they have are not the same. 

“But our foundation and our passion for helping our members links us together in a unique way that only someone who truly stands behind the concept of a Chamber of Commerce will completely understand,” Elliott said.

If you’ve ever asked yourself...

• Is a Chamber of Commerce still relevant?

• Why should I bother joining my local Chamber?

• What is the Chamber actually doing for me?

Consider this:

• Each Chamber is relevant in its own unique way because we work hard to stay connected in the community, offer new and innovative benefits and to be a strong resource for our members and community as a whole.

• When you join your local Chamber you are showing the community that you value being a part of it. When you support the community, the community will support you.

• The Chamber is always working hard behind the scenes to ensure that we are the best possible resource for our members. This includes planning networking events, education seminars, connecting with local and state officials, promoting and marketing the local economy and fostering relationships with new and existing business resource partners that can offer our members what we may lack. 

And this is why I love my job. I believe in what a Chamber of Commerce can do for its members, because I’ve been a member and I saw what it did for me. Joining the Chamber was a game changer for me and it’s led to so many opportunities and so many amazing (lasting) relationships. 

So if you’re not a member of Pampa Chamber, please give us a try. And if you are a member, please reach out to the staff and let them know why you love being a member. It will mean more to them than you’ll ever know!

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