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Oct. 19 is National Support Your Local Chamber of Commerce Day

Ashley Hunter

Greene Publishing, Inc.

While you may not have them off from work or printed on your refrigerator calendar, hundreds of national holidays exist; several take place each day! Many of these holidays were created in jest, and others honor lesser known historical figures and public servants. Whether World UFO Day (July 2),  Book Lovers Day (August 9) or National Cream Filled Donut Day (September 14), you can find a unique way to celebrate each and every day.

You may not think much about your local chamber of commerce, especially if you are not a local business owner, but the history of the chamber of commerce goes back into the year 1599, when the first chamber of commerce was formed in Marseille, France. 65 years later, another chamber opened in Bruges, which was then part of the Spanish Netherlands.

However, an english-speaking chamber of commerce was not founded until February of 1768, when Jersey (in England) opened a chamber of commerce.

Later that year, 20 New York City merchants founded the first American chamber of commerce.  The chamber still exists as the Partnership for New York City.

Today, chambers of commerce are important parts of every community they are located in. While they are not a government institution, and therefore have no direct role in the writing or passage of laws, chambers frequently lobby for laws that are favorable to the businesses and communities they serve. Chambers also work closely with various youth organizations in their communities.

Through promoting local businesses, lobbying, and providing networking for business owners, chambers of commerce help build up the community.

Once a year, the third Wednesday in October is named the Support Your Local Chamber of Commerce Day. This year, that falls on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

A few ways to help support your local chamber (and in turn, your community) are:

Become a member. Business aren't the only groups that can join a chamber of commerce! Currently, Madison County's Chamber of Commerce has members from businesses, of course, but also churches, local government leaders and various individuals. If you care about promoting and supporting local business, joining your local chamber of commerce is the best way to do that. Joining also provides an opportunity to network with others who have the same desires you have in helping support your community.

If you are already a member, run for the board and encourage other people, churches and businesses to join. Volunteer to help with chamber events, such as Madison's annual Chamber of Commerce banquet, or the monthly Business After Hours mixers. Go to meetings, and support other chamber businesses. If you have a business website, link to your chamber's website from your own.

If you have concerns about your chamber, don't tell it to everyone. Take your concerns directly to your chamber's director instead of spreading bad feelings about the chamber; that doesn't help anything but brings the status of your chamber of commerce down in the eyes of the community and in turn, damages the good that the chamber can do.

On the other hand, however, when you have something good to say about your chamber, say it! Send in a letter to the editor to your local paper thanking or praising your chamber, and of course, call or email the chamber so they know that people think they are doing a good job.

Advocate for your chamber at city meetings; make sure your local government doesn't forget about your chamber of commerce when it comes to grants and funding.

Madison County's Chamber of Commerce is located at 316 SW Pinckney St, in Madison, and can be reached at (850) 973-2788. The Chamber Director is Phyllis Williams. To get in touch with her, either call the chamber, or her personal line at (850) 973-8036. She can also be reached through email at phyllis@madisonfl.org. Visit the chamber's website at www.madisonfl.org for a list of chamber members, board of directors, maps of Madison, and more.

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