Percentages have taken center stage -- for reasons both good and bad -- in recent months. In fact, Stanford's Symbolic Systems program named the percent sign as the Symbol of the Year in 2012. At the Manatee Chamber, we've become aware of a percentage that, to us, speaks volumes -- it's 80 percent.
A recently released national survey of 2,000 adults reveals that when consumers know that a small business is a member of the chamber of commerce, they are 80 percent more likely to purchase goods or services from the company in the future. The study, conducted by The Schapiro Group, an Atlanta-based strategic consulting firm, also found that being active in a local chamber of commerce is an effective business strategy because two-thirds of consumers believe that such companies use good business practices, are reputable, care about their customers, and are involved in the community. It's no surprise that the Manatee Chamber's mission aligns with these attributes -- to build a positive business environment while enhancing our community's quality of life. It's also no surprise to me that consumers feel this way about businesses that are members of a chamber -- we think so, too!
These statistics don't mean that the Manatee Chamber, as the leading, largest business organization in Manatee County, should just rest easy and assume that consumers will continue to associate so many positive things with businesses that invest in membership. The chamber has to continue to, first and foremost, address critical issues that help our business community succeed. Second, we must continue to tell the story about how the Manatee Chamber -- because of local business participation -- makes a difference. That's why consumers will continue to overwhelmingly favor businesses that are chamber members.
It's a crowded world -- literally and figuratively. Every day, each of us is bombarded with information competing for our attention. Priorities and challenges change, as well. The Manatee chamber has a number of strategies in place to ensure that we are addressing the issues that matter most to businesses and maintaining the best possible quality of life in Manatee County. We believe that those two things -- the strength of local businesses and the quality of life of a community -- are mutual
ly dependent and equally critical to our ability to attract and retain businesses and talent in Manatee County.
The Manatee Chamber is able to carry out an aggressive, in-depth program of work because we have a business community that understands its involvement is necessary. Because of business involvement, the Manatee Chamber tackles issues like health care, workforce development, business growth, economic development, education, community development, natural resources, transportation, legislation and much more. And, Manatee County businesses are very generous with their time, talents and treasure -- not just with the Manatee Chamber, but with thousands of non-profits, schools and community events.
It's nice to know that businesses gain significant credibility for the investment they make in supporting our community through their Manatee Chamber membership. The Schapiro study found additional consumer perceptions of chamber members to be positive in many ways. For example, if consumers know that a small business is a member of its local chamber, the business enjoys a:
n 49 percent increase in its consumer favorability rating
n 68 percent increase in its local reputation, and
n 73 percent increase in consumer awareness
So, I say thank you to the 2,000 local business that are members of the Manatee Chamber and to the more than 400 business people who serve on our 25 committees and task forces that address important business and community issues. Your reputation -- and ours -- is strengthened by your investment and our community benefits through job creation, leadership development and a higher quality of life.
Robert P. Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at 941-748-4842.