Business & Competitive Analysis
Chad Elkins, Anna Kaziunas, Ronald D. Willis
Nature of the Business

The Bloomington Chamber of Commerce (BCC) is a non-profit, member-based advocate organization for both small and large area businesses. In addition to advocating for area businesses, the Chamber’s mission is to serve its members and promote community in the Bloomington area. BCC has a comprehensive vision for economic development in Bloomington that includes providing good schools, parks, social services and other resources, fostering small business growth, balancing economic development and improving the quality of life for the citizens of Bloomington. The Chamber promotes initiatives for strengthening the Bloomington business climate by becoming involved in political issues that are relevant to their members’ interests. Examples of these initiatives include the reversal of the current sign ordinance, smoking policies in buildings, the I-69 debate and the Growth Policy Plan.


The Chamber's board has 16 members, including president Steve Howard. In addition, there are seven staff members and several rotating committee members that represent over 1,000 area businesses. These members convene towards the end of the year to discuss the events that took place since the last meeting. These events include the 'High Five', a specific list of topics that the BCC addresses for that year. If any of those five issues is resolved, it is considered a success and is replaced by a new issue; otherwise that issue remains on the 'High Five' list for the following year.

Business Model

All revenue that the Chamber generates comes two main sources: BCC members and the Bloomington community. The members pay a yearly membership fee (pro-rated by the size of the organization) in order to partake of the services that the Chamber provides. The community supports the Chamber by paying admission to events such as the Tech Expo, Business Expo, Harley Raffle, and Annual Golf Scramble. Other smaller sources of revenue come from the sale of newcomer packets, maps, business labels on disk, and Chamber Business Directories to non-members.

The Chamber provides value to business by providing free publicity and advertising through its Business Directory, referring members to individuals who ask, creating partnerships among businesses (the "Buy Chamber!" program) and hosting networking events like Business After Hours. BCC also assists businesses with special events, recruits new businesses to the area and hosts small business education events (e.g., tax education, opening new markets, becoming a skilled manager). The Chamber also provides health care options available only to its members via the Southern Indiana Health Organization (SIHO).

In addition, BCC also publishes a monthly news magazine, Business Network, to keep members informed of current issues and stays involved in the legislative process through their Election inititiave, which provides information on candidates and the issues. Individuals are also permitted to join the Chamber with a Civic Membership. Through partnering with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Service Corps of Retired Executives, BCC can now provide business assistance to local businesses. The Chamber provides value to the community as a whole by involving itself in projects that will revitalize blighted urban areas, improving the business climate and creating jobs at no cost to the consumer.

Business Goals

The success of chamber’s business model determined by the resolution of or progress toward the ‘High Five’ goals of the previous year. When an issue on the list is resolved it will be replaced by a new topic; otherwise it will remain on the list for the following year. The BCC board members also consider the feedback from their members when reviewing ‘High Five’ priorities.

The Chamber's goals for the ‘High Five’ for 2004 are:

  1. To improve its ability to communicate effectively and efficiently with its members. BCC wants to ensure that their members are receiving relevant, useful, timely and quality information as well as getting member feedback.
  2. Enhancing the ability for small business to grow and become successful in local community.
  3. Continuing to facilitate active and informed participation in the political process by fostering an understanding of business issues and increasing voter turnout.
  4. Influencing land use decisions in order to ensure that they improve the quality of life in Bloomington.
  5. Increasing the understanding of community challenges and assets that impact business and people’s quality of life.
Market Sector

The market sector that the Chamber operates in is unusually uncompetitive. Although there are other merchant associations/business organizations in town, due to a lack of financial resources and the many diverse services that businesses need, each association has developed its own niche. This situation is largely due to the cooperation and collaboration among the various Bloomington business associations and the different roles/business niches that they fill. Currently, the Chamber partners with and is integrated, to an extent, in the South Central Indiana Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Main Competitors

Sarah McGoun, Director of Programs, pointed out that “[chambers] are very fortunate because they do not compete. Actually, [we] want to work together with other chambers. We recently [had] all three chambers meet together and discuss what [each chamber was] doing....[so] in that case we do not have any competitors.” Heather Robinson, Vice President of Operations, mentioned the closest thing that the Chamber has to a competitor would be merchant associations such as the Downtown Bloomington Commission or Downtown Merchant Association. She also pointed out that membership costs are the primary factor for a business in deciding which group to join or whether to join any association at all. The biggest financial concern for the BCC would be the case of an economic downturn that would cause business to cut back on their expenses.

Competitor’s Websites

The SBDC website is a repository of many different resources. No e-commerce capability here; there are functional contact/email links.

The Downtown Bloomington Commission website is difficult to read, has no global navigation and a sporadic structure. The only functionality on the page is the ability to click on a link to email the commission. There are no e-commerce capabilities here; however, there are functional contact/e-mail links.

The Downtown Merchant Association does not have a webpage. The only web presence that could be found was a mention of their organization in articles on other websites.

E-Commerce Goals

The Bloomington Chamber's e-commerce initiative seeks to provide effective and efficient online communication and to deliver up-to-date information for their members. Currently, the Chamber's website does not have online membership registration that enables people to register or renew through their website. It does not permit people to pay for events and purchase digital or printed materials. Therefore, the Chamber wants to convert its informational website to a more interactive one that involves online registration, feedback from clients, polling, and annual meeting and event postings.

There are two goals for the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce ecommerce initiative. The first goal is to make pertinent information readily available to its current members, prospective members, and the Bloomington community as a whole. There are many ways that the Chamber of Commerce can accomplish this. One way is by advertising annual meetings and events such as the Business Expo and Chamber Golf Scramble online. Another way is to place information about its current members on their website. By placing member information on the website, both Bloomington citizens and prospective members can browse the website to find information pertaining to their various needs. The Bloomington Chamber of Commerce website should not just be a promotional tool for its current members, but a promotional tool for the Bloomington community as well.

The second goal of the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce eCommerce initiative is to make their current website more dynamic. This goal will allow the BCC to do many tasks that cannot be currently implemented in their static website. One new feature could be a web-based feedback system where members could voice their concerns about services and events offered. Another feature could be interactive online polls and surveys which could allow website visitors to voice their opinions. A way of providing members and site visitors with a way to register and pay for events held by the Chamber of Commerce could certainly be feasible. Last, members could verify and update membership information online. Making the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce website dynamic would ensure that the most current information would be available to its visitors at any time and would be easier to update and maintain.

Project Resource Allocation

The two Bloomington Chamber of Commerce staff members working on this initiative are Heather Robinson, Vice President of Operations, and Sara McGoun, Director of Programs. Money is available for this project from the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce capital investment account. The exact amount was not specified, but the BCC is confident that the money put forth for this project is adequate. The BCC staff members have very little technical experience, therefore most IT related projects are outsourced.


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