ALBANY, Ga. — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has dropped the accreditation level for the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce from a five-star rating to three stars.
Chamber President Chris Hardy said Wednesday that the change is a disappointment but not one that will impact members.
“Most of the recommendations received were referencing programs or initiatives that the U.S. Chamber feels we should work toward, specifically regarding government relations,” Hardy said. “None of the recommendations received referenced the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce as not performing our duties or not providing a high level of value to our members. Actually, the recommendations were to the contrary; they were items we can look at as an organization and determine if these additions to our annual program of work fit our chamber and business community.”
Based on a point system, the three-star level puts Albany on par with chambers in Bainbridge, Monroe and Jonesboro. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Georgia has 19 accredited chambers, eight three-star chambers, two four-star chambers and seven five-star chambers.
The nearest five-star chambers are in Columbus and Warner Robins.
Chambers undergo accreditation every five years. The last time the chamber went through the accreditation process was 2007 when it received a five-star rating. Since that time, the accreditation criteria and the accreditation application have changed and so has Albany and its chamber, Hardy said.
“In 2009, the U.S. Chamber raised the additional criteria in order to qualify for a five-star chamber,” Hardy said. “Some of those criteria either do not fit our organization or the community we serve. The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce has changed as an organization since our last accreditation in 2007. First and foremost, the chamber and the EDC (Economic Development Commission) are no longer one organization, which was a point reduction in the eyes of the U.S. Chamber. Also, as a member-based organization, a chamber of commerce is oftentimes the first to experience a down economy as local businesses make budget cuts. Therefore, that reduction in membership over the last three years left our member retention rate below the indicated standard that the U.S. Chamber feels all local chambers should strive toward.”
Chamber Board Chair Cynthia George said that, even with the dip in the ratings, the local chamber is still among the top in the country.
“Only 38 chambers in the country ... out of 1,400, are accredited with three stars,” George said. “That puts us near the top the pile.”
The U.S. Chamber allows for an appeal of chamber ratings if a chamber feels it has been unfairly rated. Hardy said that he doesn’t believe the chamber will appeal the rating handed down by the U.S. Chamber, but that he may approach the chamber board about re-applying in 2014.