Celebrate Chamber of Commerce Day with Us!
Support Your Local Chamber of Commerce Day is observed on the third Wednesday of October each year. This day was established to celebrate the invaluable work being done by chambers of commerce nationwide to strengthen the local economy and business community. Its objective is to encourage businesses to learn more about their local Chamber of Commerce and how taking advantage of its resources and connections can help businesses grow and thrive.
What is a Chamber of Commerce?
A chamber of commerce is an organization of businesses seeking to further their collective interests, while advancing their community, region, state or nation. Business owners in towns, cities and other territories voluntarily form these local societies/networks to advocate on behalf of the community at large, economic prosperity and business interests. Chambers have existed in the US for more than two centuries, with many having been established before the jurisdictions they represent.
The first chamber of commerce was founded in 1599 in Marseille, France as the "Chambre de Commerce” to provide local merchants, traders, craftsmen and industrialists a public forum to discuss issues facing them as a business community. This representation of common interests became, and remains, the foundation of chambers of commerce worldwide. The first Chamber of Commerce in the United States was the New York Chamber of Commerce which was founded in 1768 by twenty New York City merchants. As the first such commercial organization in the United States, it attracted the participation of many of New York's most influential business leaders1. Today, there are roughly 4,000 chambers of commerce in the US with at least one full-time staff person and thousands more established as strictly volunteer entities.
Chambers of commerce in the US operate almost exclusively as non-profit entities known as 501(c)(6) corporations. Although Chambers are non-governmental entities, these 501(c)(6) non-profits have the authority under state and federal tax rules to represent their members in public policy debates. They may lobby and take positions on actual or proposed legislation, subject to local, state and federal laws, with input and feedback from their members.
Many chambers establish charitable/educational foundations, known as 501(c)(3) corporations, to support specific, eligible parts of the chamber’s agenda. The allowable purposes and rules related to such supporting foundations are different than those that have been established for 501(c)(6) organizations.
The History of GARCC
In the 1920s, the Staunton Chamber of Commerce was established by a group of downtown Staunton businessmen. At some point, it expanded to include Augusta County businesses and became known as the Staunton-Augusta County Chamber of Commerce.
In the 1950s, the Waynesboro-East Augusta Chamber of Commerce was established, although there was likely an informal group of business leaders meeting much earlier than that because of the number of businesses in Waynesboro as far back as the 1830s.
In 1999, these two Chambers of Commerce merged to form the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce. The area was experiencing rapid growth and a more regional focus was necessary to encourage more businesses, tourism, and residents to the area. GARCC moved into a beautiful, old brick house located at 30 Ladd Road, Fishersville. This house was the original manse for Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church located about a mile away on Route 608. With the 1994 opening of Augusta Health close by, this Fishersville address was centrally located in a growing area, easy to get to, and chose neither Staunton nor Waynesboro as it’s site (which was important to both merging organizations).
In 2017, GARCC sold that building and moved just across the road to the John Hayes Office Complex, a more prudent use of funds, resources and space. GARCC is currently operated by a staff of three and overseen by a Board of Directors comprised of local business leaders.
The Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation is a 501(c)3 with a mission focused on initiatives in the areas of education, workforce development, quality of life and community development.
What Do We Do?
Chambers of Commerce wear many hats! Most people think of Chambers as synonymous with Business After Hours. While we do love networking and some delicious hors d’oeuvres, that’s just one of the many programs and events we offer.
If you look around the Augusta County, Staunton, Waynesboro region, you’ll notice as much diversity in our businesses as there is in our topography and natural resources. From some of the country’s largest manufacturers to tech companies producing the latest apps to agriculture and agritourism businesses to beautiful Main Street businesses to amazing local restaurants and more, GARCC has to be positioned to serve all of these businesses and organizations. Every business has different needs and it’s GARCC’s job to connect them with important resources and find new customers.
Many people think we are a governmental entity. While we do work closely with our three local (fantastic!) Economic Development departments and the (awesome!) Shenandoah Valley Partnership, we do not have any affiliation with local or state government. (Nor are we the Better Business Bureau.)
GARCC focuses on four main areas:
You can learn more about all of these areas and offerings on our website.
Why Join GARCC?
When your business or organization joins the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce, you’re joining over 550 other local businesses to gain access to resources, connections, marketing, leadership and professional development, new customers and more. You’re adding your voice to all those others to speak up for what’s important for our business community, whether in economic development issues, local regulations, public policies, or state and federal laws.
But don’t take our word for it. Research shows…
- Companies enjoy a 49% increase in consumer favorability rating for being a member of the Chamber.
- Consumers are 73% more likely to be highly aware of a business if it is a member of the Chamber, and 68% more likely to think positively of its local reputation.
- Seven out of ten consumers believe that being actively involved in the Chamber is an effective strategy for enhancing a business’ reputation and for demonstrating that it uses good business practices.
- When a company shows that it is highly involved in the Chamber, consumers are 10% more likely to think that its products stack up better against its competition.
Whether you’re an existing, new or prospective member, come join us at the GARCC Office (19 Briar Knoll Court, Ste 2, Fishersville) on Wednesday, October 20 from 9:00am – 11:00am and celebrate Chamber of Commerce Day with us!
Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce
19 Briar Knoll Court, Ste 2
Fishersville, VA 22939