From UFO sightings to haunted parks, the city of Omaha has its fair share of myths, tall tales and urban legends. Spend some time in the Old Market on any given Saturday night, and you’re certain to bump into someone who knows someone who had a great-great grandfather who once had a brush with Wild Bill Hickok…and lived to tell about it.
The same can be said about the Greater Omaha Chamber. There’s a handful of misconceptions floating around, like: we’re a government entity; we only deal with corporations; and we’re a volunteer-only staff.
And, just like that Wild Bill Hickok story you heard over a Lucky Bucket IPA, none of it is true.
So, let’s debunk the 5 of the most common myths about the Greater Omaha Chamber.
Myth #1: The Chamber is Only for Big Business
This is one of the more common misconceptions that’s shadowed us for some time, and understandably so. The name, “Chamber of Commerce,” sounds, well, authoritative and expansive. It sounds BIG!
But, the truth is, 40% of our members have 5 or fewer employees. We’re not filled with a bunch of big businesses; we’re filled with a bunch of small businesses and electrifying entrepreneurs with big ideas. Gigantic ideas, actually. And, these are the ideas that drive change and innovation in our community.
So, we celebrate and encourage those efforts with:
- The Small Business of the Month Award: a distinction given to a Greater Omaha small business, with 50 or fewer employees. Recipients are chosen because they excel in areas like pride in their business, top-notch customer service and an enviable work culture, to name a few.
- Small Business Series: a lecture series where small business mentors and trailblazers present ideas and guidance on a variety of topics important to the Omaha business community.
- The Startup Collaborative – a pre-seed venture capital fund that radically improves the odds of success for entrepreneurs who aim to build high-growth, software-centric companies. It helps founders start up, quickly find a product-market fit and tackle the early challenges.
Myth #2: The Chamber is a Government Entity
Again, we totally get it. This misconception probably stems from people conflating the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with their local chamber of commerce. The former engages more directly in governmental affairs, while the latter (like us) are nonprofit entities wholly focused on supporting local businesses.
To be more specific, the Omaha Chamber promotes economic development in a 7-county region. We work with public and private partners to attract new businesses, help our existing businesses grow and develop sites for new and expanding industries. For example, we recently helped Amazon and Dollar General find sites in the Greater Omaha area to build new distribution centers. We believe that when we increase economic activity in our region, everyone wins.
Myth #3: The Chamber is For Profit and Costly
First and foremost, we are a nonprofit organization. But we do have a paid staff and overhead like a for-profit business. However, unlike the aforementioned for-profit business, our proceeds don’t benefit any one person; instead, they’re used to support programs that further our mission of championing a thriving business community and a prosperous region.
In fact, 93% of member dues are tax deductible. The other 7% supports our advocacy efforts. This year our public policy work resulted in the passing of LB 1107.
Known as the ‘grand compromise,’ LB 1107 will help keep Nebraska competitive with other states and positions us for growth and accelerated recovery in the post-pandemic economy.
Myth #4: The Chamber is an “Old Boys Club”
Not even close. A diverse and vibrant community powers the Omaha Chamber. Those who are constantly looking forward and reimagining the Omaha business landscape fill our ranks. Our exuberance is infectious. And, we’re proud of the work we do to advocate for and create economic equity and inclusiveness. Our work includes:
- The Commitment to Opportunity, Diversity and Equity (CODE) – an initiative that supports the business community in expanding diversity and inclusivity in their workplaces. We also work with a group of leaders from those organizations (CEOs for CODE) that seeks to affect change in the community at-large.
- YP Summit – the largest young professionals conference in the country—and it happens right here in Omaha. Each year, more than 1,500 young professionals gather to share ideas, make new connections and get inspired.
- REACH – the Midwest’s largest, multi-partner initiative designed to help small and emerging businesses (SEBs) in the construction industry, with a focus on minority-owned firms. REACH provides construction training, and works with community partners across the region to deliver necessary educational and technical assistance.
Myth #5: The Chamber Depends on a Volunteer Staff
While we do offer volunteer opportunities on committees, paid employees keep the Chamber running. If you ever stopped by (and if you do, please bring a box of donuts) you’d find us working diligently to run and organize:
- Hundreds of annual events
- Professional development programming
- Member services
- Economic development projects
And, you’d overhear someone telling a tale about how their great-great grandfather once had a brush with Wild Bill Hickok.
Okay, maybe that last part isn’t quite true. But, the scope of our work, and the seriousness with which we undertake it, requires dedicated folks who are willing to focus entirely on forwarding our mission.
Hopefully, your lingering misconceptions about the Greater Omaha Chamber and the work we do have been quelled. And if you’d like to join our member community, you’d be more than welcome.
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