For over a century, one organization has banded together local business owners and entrepreneurs in the Klamath Basin with a strength-in-numbers approach for the mutually-beneficial goal of economic prosperity and improvement of the business climate. For referrals, networking, advice, training seminars, lobbying assistance and more, there’s one place Klamath business owners turn to first – the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce.
Established in 1905, the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce has expanded its foundational role comparative to other Chambers of Commerce across the country, taking a Klamath Basin-centric approach towards initiatives and assistance relevant to local business needs.
“I refer to us a lot as a hub, we help connect people that are doing great things,” said Heather Tramp, Executive Director of the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce. “We help bring a variety of groups together to stay focused on bigger goals. We are all short-staffed, and so if we each do our part well, knowing there will be some crossover, then we are all more effective in making positive changes in our community.”
“People come here because they know the Chamber, people trust it,”
There are many accomplishments and partnerships of which to be proud, and much to keep Chamber staff busy helping current members and providing assistance to prospective entrepreneurs. At 518 current members, the Chamber acts as a central exchange for networking, interaction, and collaboration – often connecting specialists in various fields to help clients when someone can’t complete the job alone.
“People come here because they know the Chamber, people trust it,” said Tramp. “We offer advice, answer questions about community needs, direct people to the next level of service, let people know if they need a business license – if they’re in the city they do, and if you’re not you don’t.”
A key partner is the Klamath IDEA (Inspire Development – Energize Acceleration), a community effort to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Klamath Basin; the Chamber works closely with other organizations such as the Klamath Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Klamath County Economic Development Association (KCEDA) to provide a wealth of support and information for both prospective and established businesses across the Klamath Basin.
Additionally the Chamber is partnered with Klamath Promise, an initiative to increase graduation rates for high school students, as well as a Leadership Klamath program initiated for business owners to help master the rigors and many facets faced by small business owners. That program has branched into a Leadership Klamath Youth program, helping train future business owners and elected officials about civics, issues facing the community, and the potential opportunities therein.
Membership in the Chamber of Commerce is not a requirement, and beyond annual membership dues there are no expectations to attend the many seminars and social activities it coordinates to aid local businesses.
In addition to smaller mixers and meetings, there are five major events that the Chamber coordinates annually. An awards gala in January promotes businesses doing extraordinary things in the community. A Leadercast Leadership Development Event every May helps entrepreneurs better understand aspects of leadership. A putting challenge every July provides a casual and fun setting for competition and networking.
There is also a relatively new event spearheaded by Tramp four years ago of which she is particularly proud – the Rural Business Innovation Summit. The event caters to rural business owners in Klamath County and beyond; collaborating to share ideas, network and workshop in an expo setting that addresses rural concerns. The event’s attendance has grown exponentially, providing helpful insight whereas other large-scale conferences may focus on more metropolitan issues not applicable to smaller communities.
“We are all like-minded folks believing we can make this a better place to work and play,” said Tramp. “If you think that way, then you should probably belong to the Chamber (of Commerce), and connect with other members who think like you do. A big benefit to joining is being able to connect with other people here better than in a big city.
Those connections can really help, in a community like this we like to do business with people we know and trust. People can make more of an impact here than in a big city.” There are many ways in which the Chamber provides direct and indirect means to enhance a business. From walk-ins to appointments to phone calls and online forms, the friendly staff is present to provide perspective on what it is like to do business in Klamath County, what makes the communities unique and advantageous to business owners, and how rural marketing may vary from metropolitan areas. On a state level the Chamber is very active in Salem working with lobbyists and representatives, assuring that Klamath Basin economic concerns are heard.
“I hear from people who aren’t Chamber members that say they don’t have time, but I tell them there is a benefit even if they never come to any events,” added Tramp. “The majority of members pay only $199 a year, so if you like what we do and believe in the mission and the community, for $199 we’re doing the work for you. We are making the community more livable. Even if you’ve been in business 50 years, there are benefits to being a member.”
For more information about the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce visit Klamath.org