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A. Scott Anderson: Chambers of commerce are a vital part of the fabric of Utah

Small-town chambers are as American as apple pie.
Small-town chambers are as American as apple pie.
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Utah leaders who run businesses, from small main street shops in rural Utah to large global corporations, are generally an independent lot. But smart business leaders also understand the value of joining with other businesses to address common concerns and interests.

That’s why so many women and men who run diverse commercial enterprises are quick to join chambers of commerce and other business associations.

Utah boasts about 60 different chambers of commerce, representing businesses in small and large towns and cities, regions of the state and ethnic and specialty businesses. Among them are some of the smallest, like the Bear Lake Rendezvous Chamber, the Escalante/Boulder Chamber and the Uzona Chamber (straddling the Utah/Arizona border); and the largest, the Salt Lake Chamber; along with the Pacific Islander Chamber, the Utah Gay & Lesbian Chamber and the Utah Black Chamber.

Small-town chambers are as American as apple pie. There is something very special about a group of civic-minded local business owners banding together to promote commerce, job creation and economic viability in a rural community.

Beyond looking out for business interests, local chambers provide many services in their communities. They support arts and culture, recreation, youth programs and a variety of activities and events to support and build up their communities. They are at the forefront in promoting clean air and a healthy environment.

I have attended many chambers of commerce meetings all over the state, and have also met with ethnic and specialty chamber leaders. I am always gratified to see the dedication of these business leaders to their communities and the citizens who live there.

They are wise enough to understand that businesses don’t exist in a vacuum. If a community is growing, prospering and is an attractive place to live, then businesses will also thrive. Businesses exist in a symbiotic relationship with their communities.

Chambers are especially important in strengthening downtown areas so that downtowns provide the goods, services and gathering places every community needs. Hundreds of charming downtowns exist in communities across the state, with excellent restaurants and unique shops.

When freeways bypassed downtowns, many Utah communities suffered. Today, chambers of commerce are working to revitalize downtowns.

Utah’s largest chamber of commerce is the Salt Lake Chamber, which also staffs the Utah State Chamber of Commerce (the “chamber of chambers”), with a board of directors comprised of chamber leaders from around the state.

While the Salt Lake Chamber provides a wide range of services that benefit all businesses in Utah, including its training programs and advocacy on public policy issues, the chamber also seeks to protect and enhance Salt Lake City’s downtown.

This year’s chair of the Salt Lake Chamber, recently appointed, is Linda Wardell, the general manager of the City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City. The City Creek Center has been a major catalyst in the revitalization and vibrancy of the city’s downtown. Linda has managed the shopping center since its opening in 2011. I congratulate Linda on her appointment as chamber chair. She will provide excellent leadership for Utah’s business community.

Salt Lake City’s downtown vitality is reflected not just in the shopping and office tower building boom that is occurring, but also in the remarkable proliferation of residential units sprouting up all over downtown and inner city areas.

The best thing that can happen to a downtown is to have a lot of people living, working, shopping and playing there. That’s what is occurring in Salt Lake City, and it’s a trend we’re seeing in other city centers across the Wasatch Front, often enabled by a major public transit station.

I salute all of Utah’s small and large chambers of commerce. I appreciate their efforts to keep their communities thriving and their downtown areas vibrant.