Fairfax County Chamber takes a regional identity
After describing itself for 15 years as the “Voice of Business in Northern Virginia,” the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce is starting the year with a new name — the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
“The chamber has been talking about this for decades,” says Jim Corcoran, the organization’s president and CEO. “We’ve been serving the wider area for a long time.”
Thirty-five percent of the chamber’s membership is based outside of Fairfax County in areas throughout Northern Virginia. “We are regional already,” Corcoran says. “We need one chamber to represent the voice of the business community, elected leaders and others in Northern Virginia.”
Mitchell D. Weintraub, the Fairfax Chamber’s chairman, says the renamed organization would “seek to complement, not compete with, the other chambers.”
The initial reaction from local chambers in the region was cautious. Some told the Washington Business Journal they are concerned about possible confusion in the business community about the roles each group plays.
Regional chambers are not new in Virginia. The Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, for example, represents Richmond, Ashland and the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Powhatan. The region for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce includes Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach.
The Fairfax Chamber says it will be the largest regional chamber in the commonwealth in terms of employment. Its members have more than 500,000 employees. The group says it also is following Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s call to work regionally. “That is the hallmark of his administration,” Corcoran says.
The chamber hopes to collaborate with other business organizations and chambers not only in Virginia, but also in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.
The organization already hosts a number of regional events, including the annual Greater Washington Government Contracting Awards (in partnership with the Professional Services Council in Arlington), which draws more than 900 people, and the Greater Washington Innovation Awards.
“We also have partnered with other chambers when it comes to hosting debates and town hall forums in the past,” Corcoran says.
In examining a possible rebranding and restructuring of the group, Fairfax chamber members studied other business groups across the nation, an exercise that reinforced the idea that “regionalism is important for economic success everywhere,” Corcoran says. “It’s hard for one place to do it alone.”
“I think the saying ‘United we stand, divided we fall’ says it all,” he adds. “If we all work together as a region, we all grow.”