Area chamber earns 5-star rating

Tuesday, June 15
June 15, 2010
Thursday, June 17
June 17, 2010
Tuesday, June 15
June 15, 2010
Thursday, June 17
June 17, 2010

The Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce has achieved what only 1 percent of all U.S. chambers have: a 5-star accreditation ranking.

The Houma-based chamber received the news last week, according to its president, Drake Pothier.

“I can’t overstate how valuable this is to our members and our organization,” Pothier said. “It really shows our members and this community we are a very well run, effective organization.”

A 5-star rating is the highest accreditation given by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Of the nearly 7,000 chambers in the country, only 65 have attained the rating. Only one Louisiana chamber – the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce – has been awarded the level.

“When you consider that there are a number of quality chambers of commerce in the state of Louisiana … for our little chamber, even though we’re not that little anymore – we have a little over 900 businesses that represent over 30,000 people – but we are obviously very proud of this accomplishment,” the local chamber’s board chairman Dr. Glenn Manceaux said.

The Houma chamber was previously rated a 4-star organization, Pothier said. In its latest accreditation process, the chamber earned perfect scores on communication, technology, governance and facilities, he said.

“Even though we didn’t get a perfect score in government affairs, [U.S. chamber officials] were very impressed with our lobbying efforts,” he said.

The Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce is one of the state’s few chambers to hire a lobbyist to advocate for local business issues at the state Capitol in Baton Rouge, Pothier said. The local chamber hired Eric Sunstrom of the Chesapeake Group to work on members’ behalf.

“We’ve really ramped up that aspect of our programs in recent years,” Pothier said. “We very much use that to benefit our membership.”

By restructuring it governing process and affording the chamber’s executive committee more authority, Pothier said the organization is able to react faster to the ever-changing business climate.

“We basically gave our executive committee more authority to take faster action if necessary to be more responsive to members and government affairs as issues arise,” he explained. “In previous years, it would have taken us a month to take a position. Now, we can take a position in less than a week. Our turnaround time in responding to issues is much quicker.”

Nowhere has that been more evident than in the recent fight against President Barack Obama’s decision to impose a 6-month moratorium on deepwater oil exploration.

“This particular area has seen a lot of growth [since the 2005 and 2008 hurricanes] as a result of the recovery efforts in the oil and gas industry,” Pothier said. “This has been the case in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes, and has certainly benefitted all businesses here.

“Certainly, the threat of the moratorium is putting a damper on that,” he added.

The Houma chamber is in the midst of a grassroots campaign, asking citizens – chamber members and non-members – to petition Obama, via the Internet, to remove the drilling moratorium.

“The moratorium will be devastating to this area,” Pothier said. “It already has been. In six months, it will be even more so.”

A survey is under way seeking members’ feedback about the stop-order on drilling. “They are very nervous about the future,” Pothier said of the preliminary feedback. “There’ve already been a handful of layoffs, both a small businesses and large ones.

“The moratorium is not punishing just the oil and gas industry,” he continued. “It’s punishing retail, grocery stores, banks, churches and non-profits. Across the board, it is going to hurt every business.”

Manceaux said between 4,500 and 5,000 e-mails and faxes have been sent to state and federal lawmakers, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Obama.

“We are communicating with other chambers across the Gulf region and across the country, bringing to their attention how devastating this moratorium will be,” Maneaux said. “That, we believe, is a core communication process that we need to do to make sure the rest of the country understands the impact, not just to coastal Louisiana or the other Gulf Coast states, but to the rest of the country. This moratorium is a bad policy.”