Chamber launches huge membership drive

Motivational speaker and humorist Jimmy Cusano from Your Chamber Connection offers a pep talk to Odessa Chamber of Commerce members as part of a kickoff to a multi-day membership drive Tuesday in the former Prosperity Bank building. The drive lasts through Thursday. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

With cowbells ringing, urgent dialing and urging from Jimmy Cusano from Your Chamber Connection, members of the Odessa Chamber of Commerce came together Tuesday for the kickoff of a multi-day membership drive.

Held on the first floor of the former Prosperity Bank building, the drive runs through Feb. 1.

Your Chamber Connection helps chambers across the country with membership drives, Odessa Chamber President/CEO Renee Earls said.

The Odessa Chamber currently has 775 members.

This is the 90th year of the chamber and they want to hit 900 to 1,000.

Between 130-150 people participated in the drive Tuesday. They will celebrate Thursday at the Chamber of Commerce at 5 p.m.

Membership cost is based on the number of employees a company has. The lowest one is $355 per year.

Earls said the chamber had a membership drive like this 20 to 25 years ago. They did one with a company and one on their own.

“I’m very comfortable with hitting the 900-plus. Many decades ago, this chamber was at 1,200,” Earls said.

“We know we have a great product and we’re proud of what we do. There are many companies who may think they’re members and they’re not, or they’ve never been asked, so that’s what we’re doing this week,” Earls said.

She added that there’s strength in numbers.

“We’re the voice of business, whether it’s one or 1,000, but we’re here to help promote the community work on issues like education, transportation, healthcare, market companies, market Odessa. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, but we have so many companies that are still looking for workers and we have companies that are setting up shop here and they need people to live here,” Earls said.

“I think it’s just a matter of synergy and strength in numbers,” she added.

Chamber membership is 100 percent funded through memberships and events.

“We don’t receive any city money for operations,” Earls said.

“I think it’s going to be a shoo-in, honestly,” Stacey Brown, president of Odessa Regional Medical Center and a board member and past board chair of the chamber, said of the membership goal. “I think we raised over 80 new memberships this morning. This is a bigger group than we had that time and we still have a group tomorrow morning. We have until Thursday afternoon about 3:27 to turn them all in, so I think we’re absolutely going to exceed that goal,” Brown said.

She added that she is one of the event chairs for the drive.

“I created a team of four captains to help with this and they all recruited people to come. That’s what each event chair did was recruited team captains who recruited other people. Each team probably has between 20 and 25 members,” Brown said.

She added that she thinks the number of participants will continue to grow each day.

Earls said everyone has their own circle of influence, so people are calling vendors, clients and customers asking them to become part of the chamber.

Each individual and company looks for different reasons to join.

“It’s just to have the synergy of being amongst 1,000 members and helping us talk about issues in Austin or the federal level. There are great marketing opportunities,” Earls said.

“Chambers of Commerce are those who help promote a community. We’re working together as one to really elevate our community, to educate our elected officials about the important things that we do, so we can do things that maybe a smaller company might not be able to do or even the larger companies that might be busy in their industry. They’re relying on us to focus on other issues, as well,” she added.

Earls said the Odessa chamber is worthy of having a 900 to 1,000-member chamber.

Earls said the chamber isn’t always the best at tooting its own horn and talking about the great things it does for the community.

But she added that the chamber does amazing things.

“We have incredible volunteers and that’s very evident by this room. We have so many opportunities for our community, and so many positive things to be proud of. It doesn’t matter what type of industry you’re in, or what area your interest is. Bottom line, we’re all Odessans. We’re here to promote our community and have a vision and have an idea of how we can accommodate the growth and the growing population. We should all be going in the same direction and helping each other out,” Earls said.