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Local chambers search for ways to increase membership

By: Megan Woods, Gold Country News Service
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It’s no surprise that when business is slow, everyone feels it. For some local area Chamber of Commerce organizations, the slow economy has brought a decline in membership due to businesses closing or financial hardship. However, at the Loomis Basin Chamber of Commerce, “membership is consistent” and “slowly increasing,” said Michelle Jansen, office manager. Loomis chamber members will celebrate the year’s successes when they gather this evening at the Blue Goose Fruit Shed for an awards ceremony and installation of 2010 board of directors. The dinner is one opportunity for members to network and share ideas for weathering the economic storm. “We … motivate businesses to be hopeful,” Jansen said. “Even if the economy isn’t working for the business owners, we try to encourage businesses with our programs and networking opportunities to be that voice of hope and encouragement.” The Roseville, Lincoln and Auburn chambers have experienced decreases in membership since 2008. “We added more than 80 new members last year, but we’re still down from where we were in 2008,” said Bob Romness, CEO of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. Roseville’s Chamber membership dropped from 1,800 in 2008 to around 1,500 in 2009 and Roseville Chamber CEO Wendy Gerig said there has been decrease in attendance at Chamber events and fundraisers. This year’s SPLASH fundraiser, one of Roseville Chamber’s largest held each year in September, normally sells out the Roseville Aquatic Center with 1,200 tickets. This year ticket sales didn’t reach the 1,000 mark, but the event still brought in a total of $50,000 that went to the Chamber and the city’s universally accessible playground program. With some chambers, the down economy has been cause for reinvention and change. Last year the Auburn Chamber Board of Directors opted to cancel the Black and White Ball, the Auburn Chamber’s annual fundraiser, after 2009’s ball brought low attendance, revenue and poor reviews. But new Auburn Chamber of Commerce President Bill Radakovitz has plans to overhaul the city’s Web site, including maintaining a blog, revamping Chamber programs and recruitment and strengthen partnerships with the city. At the Rocklin Chamber of Commerce, CEO Robin Trimble said listening to members’ opinions is what has helped the Rocklin Chamber’s metamorphosis in 2009. “We used to just have events and meetings in the morning and evening,” Trimble said. “But we discovered there were some members who wanted to network in the middle of the day. So we came up with the “Late Lunch,” which we started this past summer.” Trimble said she believes being so attentive to members’ needs is what has helped the Rocklin Chamber increase its membership by 14 people this past year, bringing the grand total to 653 members. Membership fees range in membership fees from $100 to $1,000 based on the size and type of business, but all offer networking, marketing and partnership opportunities with their communities. According to Jansen, there are three Loomis Chamber membership categories. Current membership is at 290, “But we continue to have new memberships all the time,” she said. “For someone who has brick and mortar business, that’s $165. For a nonprofit or home-based business, it is $110 … but if you’re an associate, who just wants to be a part of the chamber, its $55. Martha Garcia and Susan Belknap contributed to this article.