U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest not-for-profit federation of businesses, representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations in the United States. As of 2003, the chamber was comprised of 3000 state and local chambers and 830 business associations. There were also 92 U.S. Chambers of Commerce abroad. Businesses that make up the chamber range from Fortune 500 companies to home-based operations consisting of one or two people. Approximately 96 percent of the chamber membership consists of businesses with fewer than 100 employees. The chamber states that its mission is to "advance human progress through an economic, political, and social system based on individual freedom, incentive, initiative, opportunity, and responsibility." The chamber has historically been an influential lobbyist for legislation that favors the free enterprise system. It looks to its membership to help define policy on national issues critical to business. Once a policy is developed, the chamber informs Congress and the administration of the business community's recommendations on legislative issues and government policies.

The U.S. chamber of commerce was founded in 1912 at a conference called by President William Howard Taft in Washington, D.C. At the time of the conference, there were many local chambers of commerce throughout the United States. Chambers are now organized at the local, state, and regional levels, and all of them may hold membership in the national organization. The headquarters of the national chamber is in Washington D.C. It is controlled by a large national board of directors, with a chair and president elected by the board each year.

The chamber's policy division provides members with the opportunity to influence pro-business issues in Washington through the use of satellite video conferences and town hall meetings that are broadcast directly from the chamber offices. The division convenes meetings of business leaders and also provides opportunities for chamber members to meet with and question congressional candidates in small, informal gatherings.

The chamber's Small Business Institute (SBI) seeks to provide small business professionals and their employees with self-study training programs and interactive satellite seminars. Subjects include marketing, management, productivity, technology, and forecasting. The chamber also offers an online catalog that provides access to books, audio programs, videotapes, and software that deal with business topics.

Several affiliated organizations work closely with the chamber. The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) was formed under congressional mandate in 1983. CIPE has sponsored nearly 200 programs promoting economic growth and democratic development in more than 40 countries worldwide as part of a program called the National Endowment for Democracy. The National Chamber Foundation (NCF) is a public policy research organization that concentrates on economic and business issues. It researches and analyzes issues and provides educational tools to improve understanding of economics and business. The Center for Leadership Development, the educational division of the NCF, conducts training for chamber and association managers and business executives.

The chamber publishes for its members the Nation's Business, a monthly magazine aimed at the owners and top management of small businesses. The magazine provides practical information about running and expanding an established business.

Further readings

Lefkowitz, Martin. 1993. What 100 New Jobs Mean to a Community. Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Division, U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Lucas, Robert E., Jr. 2002. Lectures on Economic Growth. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Available online at <www.uschamber.com> (accessed February 24, 2004).

Cross-references

National Association of Manufacturers.

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