What is the Columbia Chamber Doing for Me?

Columbia Chamber

Thoughts from a Chamber executive

By Henri Baskins

At this point, it’s a known fact that we are living in a historic period of time. Businesses of all sizes are becoming accustomed to working and staying afloat during this pandemic. Getting outside of our comfort zone is becoming normal. Likely, many of us now have space in our wardrobes for a collection of masks.

The overarching question is: what lessons have we learned (personally and professionally) that will help us be better leaders and more effective communicators?  Recently, we queried attendees of the Columbia Chamber’s Small Business Council and Northeast Connection breakout session. Here’s a sampling of what they said:

“We need to leverage the Chamber to bring agencies together for the sake of small businesses. We need to hold people accountable to work together for the good of the members. Facilitating working together to grow businesses, especially the small ones, is what it’s all about.”

“There is so much information in Columbia and at the Chamber, that people can come and get the information they need from the Chamber to share with others and keep things moving.”

“Utilizing the services and information of the chamber is one thing, but being involved with the chamber is phenomenal. The connections I have made through the Chamber are invaluable to my growth.”

The Columbia Chamber was formed in 1902 and the general premise of why chambers of commerce exist has fundamentally remained unchanged. What has changed, and must continue to change, is the “how” chambers serve their members. We unpack that for you and mix in some local flavor in the sidebar.

Chambers throughout history have helped small businesses weather the storm… whatever storm comes our way. This has not, and will not, change. We will continue the fight for legislation that impacts business. We’re at the table to be the “unified voice of business” so that you can focus on running your business.

As we prepare for 2021, our thoughts for our valued business community are this:

  • Be willing to take a leap of faith.
  • Trust in yourself.
  • Trust in us.
  • Be optimistic.

We invite you to join us in creating a prosperous and healthy time ahead. Visit us to learn more at columbiachamber.com.


Historic Highlights of the Columbia Chamber

1917: A group of local businessmen on behalf of the Columbia Chamber raised $50,000 to purchase a tract of land to be used in a future Army installation base. That land is now called Fort Jackson. Why does this matter? Today, Fort Jackson has an economic impact of $2.1 billion in the greater Midlands area. This is transformative for our area and the Chamber leadership saw that potential more than 100 years ago.

1938: The Columbia Chamber suggests establishing the Columbia Zoo. It was 36 years later in 1974 that Riverbanks Zoo first opened its gates. How’s that for vision?

1964: The “Committee of 50,” a biracial advisory group designed to promote interracial understanding and ease of transition towards an integrated society, was born out of the Chamber. This committee organized formally as the Greater Community Relations Council (CRC) which is still in existence today.  CRC promotes harmony, mutual respect and justice through dialogue, education, programs and resources.

2020: We are living through one of the worst pandemics in history. Nearly eight months ago COVID forced most businesses, rather abruptly, to work remotely. The Columbia Chamber pivoted as well to provide helpful information virtually. We held 15 Impact Webinars led by subject matter experts on topics like “Labor issues surrounding the coronavirus” or “5 things to do to be effective selling during and after Covid-19.” Our President and CEO, Carl Blackstone, started a “Coffee with Carl” where Partners could gather virtually to talk, ask questions, and hear the latest news that we were hearing. To date, he has held 30 episodes.

Columbia Chamber Director Henri BaskinsHenry Baskins is the executive vice president of the Columbia Chamber. Her passion for business and strategic planning guides her role here at the Chamber where she provides managerial and public policy direction.