Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Lisa and Graham served on the executive committee of the Chamber of Commerce from 2000 to 2017

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Melksham Chamber of Commerce - looking to our future shape. Pivotal meeting next Tuesday

Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry is an institution that dates back many years - I posted a constitution that was some 20 years old a while back, and commented that most of it remains relevant today.

Towards the end of the 20th Century, Chambers of Commerce in Wessex clubbed together to form the "Wessex Association of Chambers of Commerce". The cost to each Chamber of having its own secretary, office, photocopier, telephone line ... was significant, and the work for a secretary part-time. And yet members wanted to be able to contact The Chamber at any time during the working day. Thus was born The Association - initially six chambers, where a single office, shared phone lines and equipment, and full time staffing shared between the Chambers proved to be a good model - in fact, so good that the association has expanded and now comprises nearly 20 chambers and similar local business organisations.

A central association has other advantages too. It gives a larger, single voice in talking to government at a regional (now Wiltshire) and national level. It provides an ability in this more mobile age for members with interests in multiple towns to join a single organisation. And it allows all sorts of other ancilliary services to be shared between the Chambers. It also provides a link between the Chambers where we can share experiences in a common forum rather than having to develop and maintain ad-hoc relationships with each neighbouring town.

When Well House Consultants joined the Melksham Chamber of Commerce, which must be coming up to six or seven years ago now, the Wessex Chambers was running very well established under the guidance of Mike Williams, and Ann Marie Escott had been doing a Sterling job as the secretary for Melksham for a number of years. The Web and email were a quirky newfangled gimmick when we joined, and Texts, SMS, Twitter and Facebook were unheard of. Everyone posted things, used fixed landlines to contact people, and kept diaries in books in a central place in the office. Urgent messages were printed and then fed through the fax machine. Alas - times change, and the systems that were rightly in place and the best use of resources in 2005 look sadly inefficient and outdated in 2012, and adding an extra layer of sticky plaster to include the next technology probably isn't the best way forward. As an interim measure, such an approach was necessary and right, but over the years it has lead to the cost of providing services at the Wessex Association rocketing, and those may be services that we don't want. It may shock readers to learn that only a tiny fraction of subscriptions paid by Melksham Businesses to the Chambers of Commerce has actually been spent in Melksham - most has gone on the servicing of the Chamber by the Association, and even then subsidy has had to be raised from other sources as fees haven't risen as fast as costs such as staffing and postal charges, the extra "sticky plaster" layers have had to be bought, and membership has fallen - due both to the tighter times of the recession and to the fact that Chamber Membership is no longer something that businesses autometically feel that they need.

Mike retired at the very start of 2012, and that provided an excellent opportunity for modernisation; the sticky plaster approach was right to a certain point, but only so far and fortuitously that point came at the changeover to the new CEO. We've seen big changes in the last few months at the Wessex Association. Ann Marie took the brave decision to make a career change - something she had been considering for a while, but on which she had held back out of loyalty to the old team [[Footnote - I saw Ann Marie in town last Friday - looking so fit and healthy I hardly recognised her, and she was her old self bubbling with joy at her new work role]].

The big changes at the Wessex Association are bound to have a knock-on effect at the individual member associations, and we're taking the opportunity at the Melksham chamber to look forward to the future too. Rob Perks - the CEO at Wessex - has made a couple of suggestions as to how we can go forward in our relationship with the association, and we're taking the opportunity to both consider these, and discuss within the Chamber where our role is for the next ten years, thus where our administration and financing should be going too. We've also discussed this with some other chambers, so that we can all learn from each other's experiences and research, to come up with the very best route forward.

The aims and objectives of the 20 year old constitution are still relevant. But how they're applied needs to be radically different if the Chamber is still to be around and helping the town and its businesses reach those aims in another 20 years.




The case, and options, for Melksham Chamber will be discussed at the next meeting - that's on Tuesday, 26th June at Well House Manor, starting at 18:30.

The meeting is an open one - ALL are welcome - you do NOT have to be a member.

I would appreciate an email if you intend to come (graham@melkshamchamber.org.uk will reach me) so that we have a rough idea of numbers.

See http://melksh.am/chamber for our website and http://www.wessexchambers.org.uk/ for the web site of the Wessex Association.
(written 2012-06-19, updated 2012-06-23)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Z402 - Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry
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  [4672] Annual review of Melksham Matters for Chamber of Commerce AGM - (2016-05-15)
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  [4170] Herman Miller coming to Melksham - the Chamber of Commerce is briefed - (2013-09-10)
  [4164] Melksham Market - every Tuesday - (2013-09-03)
  [4151] Tell me a bit about Melksham - (2013-08-10)
  [4103] Questions from children about Melksham Campus - (2013-05-26)
  [4097] Melksham Chamber of Commerce - Report for AGM, 21st May 2013 - (2013-05-21)
  [4046] Over a hundred welcoming businesses - Melksham Town Centre - (2013-03-17)
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  [3948] Quiet little town? Advanced Technology Centre? - (2012-12-08)
  [3889] Melksham Chamber of Commerce - whence in 2013 and beyond? - (2012-10-12)
  [3880] Chamber of Commerce - looking forward in Melksham and in Wessex - (2012-10-04)
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  [3850] Bus times - Chippenham Station to Melksham, with London connections - (2012-08-25)
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  [3812] The Melksham News - July 2012 - Part 1, Campus and Chamber of Commerce - (2012-07-22)
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  [2437] Wiltshire Unitary News - Chamber of Commerce Intelligence - (2009-10-04)
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  [1507] Comments on proposed Asda Superstore for Melksham - (2008-01-14)
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