What's the Difference Between a Chamber and an Economic Development Corporation?

What's the Difference Between a Chamber and an Economic Development Corporation? Main Photo

21 Dec 2021

News, Marketing

The Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation (EDC) both play an important role in a community, but, what's the difference between the two? This is a question that is frequently asked by businesses in the community as they try to divide where to invest their membership dollars and how to spend their volunteer time.

The Difference Between a Chamber and Economic Development Corporation

Below we break down the differences in how the two organizations generally operate, though each chamber and EDC may have unique programs and focuses based on the needs of the community.

Goals: Chamber of Commerce vs Economic Development Corporation

The goal of a Chamber is typically to promote the businesses existing within the community, to help strengthen them, and ensure that businesses have the support and network they need to succeed. Though businesses of all sizes are part of a Chamber, (from startups to single insurance agents and large employers) how the organization interacts with these businesses can be different. For example, a single insurance agent may gain the most benefit from attending networking events whereas larger businesses may benefit most from the exposure they gain through various advertising campaigns and event sponsorships.

An EDC is tasked with growing the economy overall which requires strategic thinking. Holistic economic development is a big part of that. This means looking at all of the factors that influence economic growth. For example, an EDC wants to bring jobs to the community but for that to happen, sites need to be developed so new businesses have a place to locate. This often involves purchasing property or working with landowners, securing funds for infrastructure improvements, and eventually marketing the site. Preparing information and negotiating with site consultants and executives is also common.

Once a business decides to come to a community, the EDC will help with securing any available incentives, workforce recruitment, and training.

Now in order for people to move to a community to work for new or existing businesses, housing needs to be available. Developing it is another focus of EDCs, as are other quality of life initiatives that attract new families to the community.

Programs: Chamber of Commerce vs Economic Development Corporation

One of the biggest strengths of a Chamber is how they bring the business community together. Through regular networking and educational events, chambers create opportunities for business leaders to meet, exchange ideas, and work together. These exchanges can lead to individual business growth since connections create opportunities.

A Chamber's educational programs, such as Lunch & Learns, provide small businesses with tangible information and tools they can use in their daily operations. For example, Chambers will educate businesses on how to market their services, manage their finances, etc.

EDCs run educational programs as well. Often, these are focused on ways to grow a business by covering topics like how to get started with exporting.

EDC programs and initiatives focus on growing the economy. coming back to the concept of holistic development, these programs typically result from an EDC learning about the needs of local businesses and what barriers may exist to prevent their growth or to prevent the community from growing overall. For example, an EDC may create or facilitate grant programs that make it easier for businesses to purchase new equipment or improve the exterior of their buildings. The same applies to workforce training and development. Each EDC will develop programs based on the individual needs of the community. That's why you'll see manufacturing initiatives in one community and tech-based initiatives in another.

Marketing: Chamber of Commerce vs Economic Development Corporation

Chambers market their members in order to create opportunities for businesses within the community. EDCs market the community as a whole in order to bring additional investment into the community, which also creates opportunities for members. For example, if a new company comes to a community, this creates opportunities for suppliers and service providers to gain a new client. If an investor develops property in the community, local businesses have new location opportunities, along with the ability to serve the tenants moving into the development.

Funding: Chamber of Commerce vs Economic Development Corporation

Both Chambers and EDCs are funded by contributions from the community. A Chamber typically receives funds from annual membership feeds, selling tickets to events, and selling sponsorships. An EDC may have an investor model where businesses and community stakeholders invest in the EDC overall or in specific initiatives. For example, a community hospital may invest in an EDC's marketing campaign, knowing it will help to bring more families to the community who will then become patients of their healthcare system.

EDCs also work to secure state and federal funding for the community and specific projects. For example, an EDC may write grants to pay for infrastructure improvements that make commercial or housing development possible - something that benefits everyone in the community.

Support Your Chamber and EDC

The Chamber and EDC both need your support. Being a member or investor of both ensures that the community has the highest likelihood of growing, and so does your business.

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