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2010 a productive year for the Chamber

2010 turned out to be a productive year with notable activities for the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce(BCC), despite reduced membership due to the year’s economic malaise.

The Chamber’s year began with the launch of the Chamber Institute in January, and this December saw the finalization of merger efforts which began in 2001, all in line with the BCC’s vision this year, according to its president Khaalis Rolle.

“Primarily, we wanted to increase our value proposition beyond advocacy,”Rolle toldGuardian Businessyesterday.”We wanted to ensure that our members see the Chamber as a services-based organization.”

The most significant accomplishment this year was the launching of the Chamber Institute, according to Rolle. The Institute is a committee of the BCC tasked with developing training programs for its members.

“This year the Chamber Institute launched, and being able to offer business education at less than retail price is something that small and medium-sized enterprises keep demanding, and I think we have positioned ourselves to satisfy that demand.”

Access to affordable business education is as equally important to small businesses as access to capital, according to Rolle. He added that although the BCC continues to work on improving such businesses’access to capital, the effort requires broader participation and is long term in scope.

Establishing added value may have been especially important to the BCC’s members in a year like 2010. Whereas in more profitable years membership renewal may have been”automatic”, conditions this year resulted in a drop in membership as businesses chose to take care of their core expenses first, according to Rolle.

“We saw exactly how difficult it was for small businesses,”Rolle said. He was not able to provide the precise number of the membership drop, but added that this was because of how active membership is calculated. Businesses may pay membership renewal fees long after their billing date, he explained.

The Chamber took a disciplined approach to its merger with the Bahamas Employers Confederation, and established a merger committee which Rolle said met on a weekly basis to get the task done. The initial discussions about the merger began about a decade ago, according to Rolle, but the process was completed this month. The merger will be effective as of January 1, 2011.

Surveys conducted by the Chamber had determined that members wanted access to consultation on labor issues, and the merger will allow the Chamber to deliver this access more efficiently. Rolle added that the Chamber was not equipped previously to address many of the labor issues of its members. With the merger, Rolle said it added economies of scope to the BCC.

According to Rolle, the question of how the BCC adds direct value to its members had been put to him since he came to office, especially from small businesses. The advocacy role the Chamber plays may result in favorable public policy, but those benefits accrue to all businesses, whether or not they are paying Chamber members. The Chamber Institute and the merger with the Bahamas Employers Confederation are expected to directly benefit BCC members in areas where they have expressed a need.

Another major accomplishment this year was the Haiti relief telethon conducted with the Rotary Club. Rolle said the telethon was able to raise close to$250,000 for that cause.

This year, the Chamber’s business development seminar featured a celebrity well known to many Bahamians for his prowess on the basketball court in decades past. Earvin’Magic’Johnson, however, is now a noted business person, managing more than a billion dollars in wealth and reputed to be one of the most successful franchise operators in the United States, according to Rolle.

Rolle said that these particular items were highlights, and the many activities the Chamber is known for continues and grows. Asked to grade the performance of the BCC this year, Rolle said”I think we had a quality year in terms of activities. We did some major things. And how many people can say they brought in Magic Johnson?”

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