Chambers of commerce and associations among 'most stressed' industries, North Texas business leaders say

North Texas business leaders have said that chambers of commerce and associations are among the worst-hit by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. (courtesy Adobe Stock)
North Texas business leaders have said that chambers of commerce and associations are among the worst-hit by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. (courtesy Adobe Stock)

North Texas business leaders have said that chambers of commerce and associations are among the worst-hit by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. (courtesy Adobe Stock)

At their core, area chambers of commerce serve to represent the needs and interests of local business owners, Grapevine Chamber of Commerce CEO RaDonna Hessel said. But when faced with unprecedented stress on local economies, North Texas chamber and association leaders say they are in straits just as dire as those of their business constituents.

"Most people think that chambers of commerce are a part of government, and they are not," Hessel said. "We're an organization of businesses who joined together to ... market themselves and the community to be successful."

When Congress passed the CARES Act in March, it excluded 501(c)(6) organizations, such as chambers of commerce, from accessing loans and grants made available to most other small businesses, according to the American Society of Association Executives.

Chris Wallace is the president and CEO of the North Texas Commission, the regional public-private partnership between businesses, cities, education institutions and other local stakeholders. He said he is calling on North Texas' congressional representatives to include associations in the next stimulus bill.

"In recent discussions with our 15 members of Congress, we are encouraging them to include associations and chambers of commerce (501(c)(6) organizations in the next stimulus package," Wallace said in a statement. "The COVID-19 pandemic has also created financial hardships on chambers and associations, who, during this time, are busy navigating emergency aid resources for their own members."


Because chambers of commerce operate as businesses, each with their own staff, Chelsea Rose, Colleyville Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said she hopes to see 501(c)(6) organizations included in future stimulus bills.

“We are thrilled our businesses were granted access to funds so direly needed," Rose said in a statement. "[But] chambers are also businesses providing ongoing services, information, and promotion of our members who are open for business. We do look forward to chambers being included in later packages or packages in the future."

Hessel said a slimmed-down chamber staff would mean fewer resources for local business owners.

"We have ... a thousand businesses who are members, but we only have five [staffers], so each staff member has a role," Hessel said. "We are a corporation, and everything we've done ... has been based on what our businesses tell us they want us to do. So when we have to start taking things away, then, we feel like we're taking away things that companies ... have told us they want us to do."

Hessel said she expects the greatest source of financial hardship will come from the cancellations of revenue-generating events as well as from some chamber members being unable to pay their dues in the future. These stressors are exactly why chambers and associations should be included in future rounds of aid, Wallace said.

"The Commission, our chamber partners, CVB’s and other associations in our region do incredible work supporting their members and their members’ workers," Wallace said in the statement. "Membership-based associations are among the most-stressed industries during this uncertain time, and we all must support these organizations, as they are economic generators for our communities.”

Hessel said access to some of the most widely available forms of CARES Act aid, such as Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) or the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), would make a difference. PPP loans, for example, are forgiven if business owners either retain or rehire their entire staff.

"That would be great to be able to help us," she said. "[In] any company, your No. 1 investment is going to be in your people. ... We're going to try to do everything we can to save our staff because we've got a lot of work to do.
By Gavin Pugh
Gavin has reported for Community Impact Newspaper since June 2017. His beat has included Dallas Area Rapid Transit, public and higher education, school and municipal governments and more. He now serves as the editor of the Grapevine, Colleyville, Southlake edition.


MOST RECENT

Harvest Hall officially opened Feb. 6 in Grapevine as part of the Grapevine Main development. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harvest Hall now open in Grapevine, new dining options in Fort Worth and more DFW news from February

Here are some of the top stories from the past month from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Two hundred rail pieces were delivered east of Shiloh Road in Plano in late 2020, according to a Dec. 18 DART release. (Courtesy Dallas Area Rapid Transit)
DART to save millions on Silver Line project following approval of refinanced loan from U.S. Department of Transportation

The $908 million loan was approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Build America Bureau in 2018, according to a Feb. 25 news release.

At its peak of power loss, the city had roughly 50,000 homes with interrupted power, many of which had prolonged outages, Plano City Manager Mark Israelson said. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
Plano faces long-term impacts from storm; Collin County vaccine hubs resume service and more DFW-area news

Read the top business and community news from this week from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Any Lab Test Now will be opening a new clinic in early March in Southlake. (Courtesy Any Lab Test Now)
Any Lab Test Now coming soon to Southlake

Any Lab Test Now will be opening a location in Southlake in March.

Construction notification signs next to Cheek-Sparger Road
Cheek-Sparger Road upgrades scheduled in Colleyville

A portion of Cheek-Sparger Road near Colleyville Boulevard will be open to westbound traffic only.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

The city of Grapevine will be waiving certain fees related to damage caused by Winter Storm Uri. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Grapevine waives fees, provides other assistance for residents affected by winter storm

Grapevine residents will not see February in their average sanitary sewer rates to reflect accurate water usage during the winter storm.

The coffee and wine bar offers signature drinks, such as the Honey Bear Latte, made with honey and cinnamon, as well as food options, such as breakfast tacos, charcuterie boards, baked goods and snack boxes. (Courtesy Golden Boy Coffee Co.)
Golden Boy Coffee Co. opens in Plano; Black Rock Coffee Bar coming to Southlake and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Black Rock Coffee Bar will be opening in Southlake in the spring. (Courtesy of Black Rock Coffee Bar)
Oregon boutique coffee shop Black Rock Coffee Bar plans Southlake location

Black Rock Coffee is set to open two new locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including one in Southlake.

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic. (Courtesy Qygen, Wikimedia Commons)
Fry's Electronics calls it quits after nearly 36 years in business

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic.

A lone runner jogs on a snow-covered road in Austin. Transportation projects across the city were briefly paused due to Winter Storm Uri. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
ERCOT: Texas power system was less than 5 minutes from collapse during winter storm

ERCOT's CEO offered details into what led to the massive blackouts that left millions of Texans in the cold last week.

Next Bistro was opened in 2011 by husband and wife Tom and Ying Aiken. Chef Ying left her career as an accountant to pursue cooking. (Photos courtesy Next Bistro)
Upscale eatery Next Bistro in Colleyville continues to innovate

The owners of Next Bistro in Colleyville have made a major investment in their restaurant every year since opening it in 2011.