Council says no to chamber membership

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published April 26, 2013

City Council rejected a plan to join the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce in April, saying the group is too political and is meant for businesses, not governments.

“We belong to other associations strictly for governments,” said Councilman John Caron. “It doesn’t stop us from working with them. I think we have a pretty good working relationship with those (other business associations) without having to be part of those associations.”

He said because the chamber rates political candidates on their business friendliness prior to elections and advocates for businesses, it is in “conflict to what our mission is.”

“We’d be getting ourselves into another conflict,” he said.

He also pointed out that the city is short-staffed, as it is, and wouldn’t necessarily have the manpower needed to participate in various events.

The city has not been part of a chamber since the Metro East Chamber of Commerce dissolved in spring 2011.

“We’ve talked about marketing the city,” said Councilman Peter Rubino, who brought the matter back to City Council’s attention in April. “It’s something we’re going to need more and more of, and I think this would be a good first step.”

Mayor Kip Walby said the membership fee was $295, but he acknowledged that the city would not likely “get a whole lot more” from the chamber than it has been providing for free since the Metro East Chamber of Commerce closed its doors.

Rubino said the chamber is help for the city from outside the city, and he added that he didn’t think it would have much incentive to continue to help St. Clair Shores without membership.

“It should be more of a partnership. Basically, we want all of the benefits but we don’t want to commit to anyone,” he said. “I don’t know how well that sits with me.”

His motion to join the chamber failed, 3-4, with council members Candice Rusie, Anthony Tiseo, Chris Vitale and Caron voting against membership.

“They have St. Clair Shores businesses that are their current members. Our businesses are getting the benefit of the chamber,” Caron said. “In the spirit of what their mission is, (it is) to do what’s best for the businesses that are members of their chamber and that’s in conflict with what we need to do as a government.”

Councilman Ron Frederick pointed out that the business-friendly ratings shouldn’t matter to City Council.

“If they rate us whether we’re business-friendly or not, who cares? We’re going to do what we’re going to do anyway,” he said.

Both he and Walby joined Rubino in supporting membership.

Despite the vote, Macomb County Chamber of Commerce CEO Grace Shore said nothing would change.

“Our chamber does events there. We have a multitude of business members already in St. Clair Shores. We will continue to do all the things we’ve always done,” she said.

She said the membership is a courtesy to local governments, not a requirement for the chamber to service the area. The Macomb chamber is a county-wide organization but serves eight core communities: St. Clair Shores, Mount Clemens, Fraser, Warren, and Harrison, Clinton, Chesterfield and Macomb townships.

Shore said that most of the eight core communities are members of the chamber. She said the organization already hosts coffee connections, boating events and member mixers in the city and will likely continue those. Whatever the chamber does host in the city will not be based on whether or not it ever becomes a member, she said.

“We are going to be a chamber, so we are going to do the things we believe to be good for the majority of their members,” she said. “Educating them on political candidates … we just think it’s a service to our members. We don’t endorse candidates.

“Since business has to live with the laws that elected officials enact and pass, we just think that’s a good thing.”