What’s the Difference Between a Chamber & Economic Development Corporation?
9 Dec 2021
The Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation (EDC) both play an important role in the 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 decide where to invest their membership dollars and how to spend their volunteer time.
The Difference Between a Chamber & 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 focusses 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 where larger businesses may benefit most from the exposure they gain through various advertising campaigns and event sponsorships. Also, community members may benefit from community events.
An EDC, like York County Development Corporation (YCDC), 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 working with the community on 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. “We respond to requests for information on a regular basis, in addition to reaching out to site consultants and businesses with information on our community. Being the biggest promoter of York County is an important part of our job,” said Lisa Hurley, Executive Director of York County Development Corporation.
Once a business decides to come to a community, the EDC will help with securing any available incentives, workforce recruitment and training. “When Preferred Popcorn came to York County, for example, we helped to secure state incentives to make it financially attractive to locate here,” said Hurley.
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 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. Sometimes Chambers and EDCs partner on educational programs like Lunch & Learns.
EDCs 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. “In York County we know how important manufacturing is and that’s why we have been working to connect our existing manufacturing companies with high school students. We want them to know about the incredible opportunities they have to build a career without leaving home,” said Hurley.
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.
“York County Development Corporation has used multimedia marketing to bring attention to the benefits of locating in York County. Some of these efforts, like our videos, have won awards and been viewed by thousands,” said Hurley. “We were able to produce them, run social media and ad campaigns because of the commitment of our investors.”
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 fees, selling tickets to events and by selling sponsorships. An EDC may have an investor model where businesses and community stakeholders annually invest in the EDC overall or in specific initiatives. For example, York General has invested in YCDCs marketing and housing campaigns knowing it will help to bring more families to the community who will then become patients of their healthcare system. Twenty-nine partners came to the table to partner on a housing development fund. “Our investors understand that there is an ROI on their investment every time a new family or business moves to the community,” said Hurley.
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 the Chamber and YCDC
The Chambers and YCDC all 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.