Take Five: The chamber's coming centennial

In spite of the fact that the word “chamber” could denote a private room, quarters for a judge or a legislative body, the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce has become more than just a small office off Foothill Boulevard.

As Pat Anderson, president and chief executive, says, “The La Cañada Chamber of Commerce and Community Association has become a valuable resource center. We like to think we’re partners with the 640 members we have. We’re their voice.”

Anderson has managed to realize a net gain of 30 chamber members this year. This takes great effort in this economy, but she is everywhere. I see her all the time at City Council meetings and selected committee meetings, business get-togethers and various social events.

“Would you believe,” Anderson says, “that 40% of my time is spent at City Hall? My staff and I and our board push hard to get our representatives to be more business-friendly. Sad to say that people we elect don’t seem to recognize that if business owners have continuing battles in running their companies, no new people can be hired — and there's a risk that existing employees can become redundant.

“I’m out three or four a times a week”, says Anderson. “My staff and I and our first-class board speak for our members and you can’t imagine the hurdles we face.”

There are visible trends she identifies. Some owners have closed shop on Foothill Boulevard. They have packed up their wares and now sell via the Internet — a powerful channel for the consumer to use — conveniently and economically. But what about the former proprietor of a storefront, now closed? What happens to Main Street America?

Anderson explains that it is important to note that we are a community. She continued, “This is a more fitting title — a more encompassing choice of words than just a chamber of commerce.

Today’s economy is not unique to La Cañada Flintridge.

We live and function in a myriad of localities; local, regional, national and global. Virtually everything affects every one of us in the city.

“We have to be flexible” Anderson continued. “We can’t be content to protect the status quo. A big part of my job is ensuring that our political representation in the city, county, Sacramento and Washington has to be business-friendly.

“Some of our representation recognizes that jobs are what drive our economy. La Cañada is not a sleepy island. Today our community has its share of unemployment. We had hundreds of two-income families. Now, with the huge lay-offs, we know the devastating short-fall of family income. It’s hard to watch parents try to raise and educate their children on one wage-earner in the house,” she said.

The chamber’s annual residential dues are just $40 a year. A company with one or two employees pays $110 per year.

“We fight hard to keep and recruit members,” Anderson told me. “We also fight to stay in the black, as does any other organization. We’ve not had a major dues increase since 2005. We are running a business here and our expenses go up every year. We keep the layers to a minimum. We’re a flat entity.”

The LCF Chamber celebrates its centennial in just a few weeks. There are many meaningful events planned. Imagine the thousands of residents, businesses and organizations who have contributed to the growth and well-being of our community throughout those years. We owe them thanks for the countless hours and dedication to La Cañada Flintridge.

Let’s get it done in 2012. Happy Birthday to the LCF Chamber and to all of us.

GENE PEPPER is a published author and writer. Contact him by email at gpep@aol.com or phone (818) 790-1990.

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