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News & Press: Chairman's Message

Chairman's Message: October 2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017   (0 Comments)
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Dear members and friends,



As I travel the state and the country, speaking to chamber, community and business leaders, I hear a lot of the “bad rep” that the term Chamber of Commerce has acquired, and it is a shame. While there are many “fake chambers” in the country, I have worked with many amazing chambers of commerce in the state as part of our leadership role in the Maryland Chamber Executive Advisory Council (MCEAC) and the Maryland Competitiveness Business Coalition. Nevertheless, we have received complaints as well as reticence from prospects about joining; citing bad experiences with chambers that did not fulfill their membership benefit promises or were hollow organizations benefiting the individuals in charge only.

At MDHCC, our values of Sustainability, Advocacy for the Community, Leadership, and Ethics (SALE, pronounced ˈSa-lə in Spanish) are our guiding principles. We hope and expect that every chamber of commerce in the nation adheres to ethical standards, but it is not our mission to police them. However, it is in our mission to protect Hispanic-owned businesses from potential bad business interactions, so here are some things business owners should be looking out for:

Check the chamber’s legal status
Most chambers of commerce will fall under the 501 (c) (6) IRS code. The IRS defines a chamber of commerce as “as an association of persons having a common business interest, whose purpose is to promote the common business interest and not to engage in a regular business of a kind ordinarily carried on for profit.” It also goes on to say that, “no part of the net earnings inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual." The takeaway here is that the IRS gives tax exemptions so that the chamber promotes common business interests, and not those of solely the board of directors or the executive team. You can see if their IRS filings are up-to-date here: and check for any red flags here:

Demand Oversight
For-profit chambers of commerce can and do exist, but they are typically shunned by the community and non-profit chambers because they may operate for the benefit of the individuals running them, and not for the benefit of members or a common business interest that benefits the community. These can be sole proprietorships and not require oversight from a board. Without oversight, the organization may be underserving their members.

Do your Homework
Before you join any chamber of commerce, do your due diligence:

  • Is the chamber compliant with the IRS if they are a 501(c)(6)? If they are for-profit, can you look at their tax filings?
  • Is there a legitimate website and a legitimate address?
  • Have you read their bylaws or articles of incorporation?
  • Is there an active board of directors and is their contact information on the website?
  • Has the board of directors and executive committee been duly elected as per the organization’s bylaws or articles of incorporation?
  • Have you talked to other members to glean their feedback?

As the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives puts it: “A chamber of commerce is an organization of businesses seeking to further their collective interests, while advancing their community, region, state or nation.” It is all about their members and common objectives, not for the benefit of just a few.

If you are interested in discussing a leadership position within the MDHCC, please contact me directly at


Jorge Eduardo Castillo
Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

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