Small business snub of Chamber membership invitation disappointing – Urling

[] – The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) is disappointed over “the lack of response” to the decision made by the Chamber last year to open its doors to members from the small business community.

“Frankly, there has not been any real response and the Chamber is disappointed because we feel that we are equipped to help small businesses in various ways,” GCCI President Clinton Urling told Stabroek Business.

Asked whether the Chamber had been able to discern any likely reasons for small entrepreneurs not wanting to become members of the Chamber, Urling said that the business support organisation had not been able to make a determination. He added though, that he had heard talk about small businesses believing that membership of the Chamber might expose their businesses to “unwanted official scrutiny”.

“Nothing could be further from the truth, though I might add that we encourage our members to be mindful of the legal constraints within which they are required to operate,” Urling told Stabroek Business.

Almost a year ago, at its annual General Meeting the GCCI took a decision that it would break the 125-year-old mould, which restricted membership of the GCCI to mainstream business community including enterprises in the tourism, manufacturing, import and export, and banking and finance sectors to make room for smaller businesses in the retail and other sectors.

Urling told Stabroek Business that the debate on adjusting the rules of membership to accommodate small businesses had been “an energetic one” with some member favouring the traditional membership arrangements. “Frankly, the conceptualisation of the proposal to admit small businesses had everything to do with the desire to support the small business community in every way that we could. We felt, for example, that the GCCI had to capacity to support small businesses with the creation of business plans, negotiating loans and with various other facets of business development. We believe that we have the systems in place to offer that kind of support and, yes, I do believe that those small businesses that are eligible to become members may have allowed an opportunity to slip by even though it is still possible for them to become members,” Urling said.

Meanwhile, he said he doubts that the annual $10,000 membership fee for small businesses is an issue. “The fees that have been set are eminently reasonable. More to the point we have a Chamber which is now better positioned to provide value for money and that is what our small business community should be focusing on,” Urling said.