Despite a down economy, businesses continued to maintain their partnerships with the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce in 2009.
"When I came on board (in April) we were at 664 members," Executive Director Jim Tingen said recently. "Then, we got up as high two months ago at 693 members. Right now, we're at 684 members."
Chamber officials have heard that memberships are down around the country, resulting in cutbacks and layoffs.
"We haven't seen that," Tingen said. "We're not climbing, but we're not falling. I'd say we're inching upward. That's fine with me. I'm just as happy as I can be about that."
The chamber recently has placed a focus on renewals, developing what it calls a Chairman's Circle to encourage members to stay with the chamber and increase their involvement.
The effort seems to be paying off.
Last month, 43 members renewed their memberships with the chamber. Tingen said that is one of the highest renewal rates for a single month he has seen.
Still, considering the current economic climate, Tingen said it is inevitable that some businesses drop out.
"Usually, it's small businesses that drop out,'' he said. ''They cut back wherever they can."
Starting in January, a new committee will recruit home-based small businesses into the chamber in an effort to reverse some of those losses, Tingen said.
The eventual goal, Tingen said, is to boost the chamber ranks to 700 or more members.
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