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Commentary: Newport Beach chamber is making progress on membership

December 13, 2012|By Tim Brown

First, let me begin by stating the following comments reflect my own personal observations. They should not be attributed to anyone else who serves on the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) Board of Directors or any member of the NBCC staff.

In recent days, the NBCC has been criticized on a number of fronts by journalists doing their job in keeping the public informed about trusted civic institutions. As is usually the case, some of this criticism is justified and some of it is not. Despite their best efforts to investigate prior to publishing, columnists are always on the outside looking in.

To clarify, the NBCC is a not-for-profit institution dependent on the annual dues of its members (primarily small local businesses) to pay its bills. The economic downturn, which began in 2007, has had a profoundly negative impact on small business owners, many of whom have been unable to weather the storm and have had to close their doors.

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Others, although they have been able to remain open, have had to make choices between making payroll and paying their NBCC dues. Others have looked closely at the value proposition currently offered by the NBCC membership and have decided that, in these difficult times, the return on investment is just not there. All of these are factors that have led to a decline in the NBCC membership over the past five years. Admittedly, the NBCC has been slow to react to these forces thus creating some of the financial challenges it faces today.

The Taste of Newport was created to showcase our local restaurants and has been enormously profitable over the years. That success made it easier to permit the overhead of the NBCC to exceed what its membership could support. Of course in hindsight, it is easy to point out that that decision was ill-advised. That phenomenon, coupled with the maturing of the event, has caused some to question the wisdom of continuing to produce the Taste of Newport. The fact is until this past year, the Taste of Newport has brought hundreds of thousands of dollars to the NBCC, which in-turn has funded grants to many important civic organizations like Leadership Tomorrow. The financial loss this year clearly indicates the event should be re-imagined before going forward, and it will be.

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