For over 30 years, the Oakley Chamber of Commerce has supported, welcomed and championed the town’s local storefront and home-based businesses. But now, the once flourishing chamber needs some championing of its own. Low membership, outstanding dues and a lack of volunteers will force the closure of the chamber by the end of the month unless the community steps up to help.
“We don’t know what will happen if we don’t get the support we need,” said Wendy Turner, chamber vice president. “We only have six board members right now, and we are running everything. In addition to needing volunteers to help us run our social media platforms and our office, we need about $1,600 by the end of the month, we won’t be able to pay our bills, including the insurance we need for next year.”
The Oakley Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1985 to champion the cause of local busi
nesses and is open to any business in Oakley, Brentwood and the surrounding area, including home-based businesses.
“Out of more than 700 businesses in the area, we have roughly 70 which are members of the chamber. Of those 70, we have even fewer active participants,” said Kristin Mattingly, the chamber president. “The biggest problem we are facing is low membership and volunteerism. We need more members and for those members to be active volunteers throughout the year to keep us going strong.”
Over the years, the chamber has sponsored the Spring Fling Business Fair, the Almond Fest, the Citizen of the Year banquet, the Dog Days of Summer, monthly business mixers, quarterly luncheons with business-related speakers like accountants and search-engine optimization specialists, the Rummage Round Up and the Meet The Candidates sessions for city council elections.
They also provide email marketing, ribbon-cutting and ground-breaking ceremonies for all businesses covered by membership.
The uncertainty of the impending closure is even making it difficult for the chamber to collect the dues it needs from the few members it does have.
“We can’t start accepting memberships and dues for 2015 if we aren’t going to be able to keep our doors open until then,” said Mattingly. “But without them and without more members joining soon, we won’t be able to stay active until then.”
In an effort to increase immediate membership, the chamber is currently offering a special discount on dues and fees.
“If any business joins the chamber and pays the dues for next year in the next couple of months, they will have their administration fees waived, and they will get the rest of this year’s membership for free – a fee that is usually prorated,” said Turner. “If the community can help us keep our doors open into next year, we plan on high-lighting our most active members throughout the year.”
Another ray of hope for the chamber is Oakley’s newly appointed Economic Development Director, Dwayne Dalman.
“The City Council recently adopted an updated and more aggressive Economic Development Work Plan,” said Dalman. “A key component of the Work Plan is to provide tools and resources to help existing Oakley businesses grow and succeed. Economic Development could work hand in hand with the chamber on these activities as we look forward to helping Oakley’s businesses flourish.”
The chamber will be holding a strategic meeting to discuss the organization’s future on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the chamber offices, 3510 Main St. All are welcome to attend.