Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

March 17, 2013

Chamber View: Taking sides can take a toll

‘What’s the Chamber’s position on this issue?”

That’s a question heard time and again by myself and others at the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. A recent Chamber membership query on the local food truck debate sparked a large response and questions about where our organization came down on this foodie flap.

Picking sides on issues, whether local or global, is often difficult. For an organization that serves almost 1,900 members, from one-person shops to large companies with thousands of employees, it’s rare if not impossible to find any topic that would affect our members exactly the same way. That necessitates cultivating several viewpoints across a wide range of business interests, but doing so in a timely fashion to make sure our input is timely and relevant.

There is a process for getting there. The Chamber turns to its members who serve on its Government Relations, Transportation and other committees for guidance on local, state and national policy issues. Those committees review legislation and policy items and make recommendations of support or opposition to the Chamber Board of Directors.

We also rely on our partners in the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance to help craft regional positions to give our business sector more political clout in Lansing and Washington. It also uses the expertise and experience of its staff to navigate the often tricky political headwinds.

In many instances, the Chamber’s “position” isn’t an either/or proposition — which also seems to aggravate some folks. The food truck debate is a perfect example. Done right, food trucks in the city would be a key ingredient for growing the community’s vibrancy and “foodie” reputation. Done haphazardly, it could be detrimental to parts of our city that have put this region on the national food map. That’s why our “position” is for the city to take sufficient time to get these rules right the first time … a stance that may seem vanilla to some.

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