Business Owners Launch Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge Parish

BATON ROUGE — After months of planning, a group of 21 business leaders from across the parish have launched the brand-new Chamber of Commerce for East Baton Rouge Parish.

The members of the diverse group have adopted the motto, “We Stand for Small Business.”

To meet the Founders of the new Chamber of Commerce for East Baton Rouge Parish, click here.

Bob Breaux, the executive director of the new Chamber, said, “We believe the voice of locally-owned, family-run businesses needs to be heard before the Metro Council, the Louisiana Legislature, and the Congress.  We will take a strong stand for free market approaches to solving problems, limiting the power of government at all levels, and creating a climate for economic growth in East Baton Rouge Parish.  Growth and prosperity in our parish depend on significantly reducing crime, improving public education, and fighting unnecessary taxation.  Achieving those goals will be among our primary goals.”

Breaux, who formerly served as president of the Central Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the West Baton Rouge Chamber, just completed a term as Chairman of the Board of the Ochsner Hospital group in the Baton Rouge area.  Prior to that, he was the Chairman of the Small Business Council of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and owned his own small business for more than 25 years.

One of the principles of the new Chamber is equality of members, according to the group’s chairman, Woody Jenkins, the publisher of the Central City News.  Jenkins said there will be only one level of membership and a single annual dues for all member businesses — $150 a year.  “We won’t have ‘investors,’ and appointments to committees or positions of authority won’t depend on someone donating $10,000, $25,000, or $50,000 to the organization,” he said.

“The Chamber EBR will be an all-volunteer, member-driven organization — not a staff-driven organization.  In that sense, we will be more like a Rotary Club, a Kiwanis Club, or a Lions Club.  We don’t anticipate having paid staff any time soon, and the members will do the work of the organization ourselves,” he said.

The 21-member Executive Committee of the new Chamber includes male, female, white, black, Hispanic, Democratic, and Republican business owners.

Besides Breaux and Jenkins, the initial officers of the Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge Parish are Bob Burns, owner of RAB Enterprises, Vice Chairman for Membership; Jeff Pollard, owner of Pollard Industries, Vice Chairman for Policy; Craig LeBlanc, chairman of Palco Electric, Vice Chairman for Entrepreneurship; Scott McKay, publisher of The Hayride, Secretary and Director of Media Relations, and Ralph Washington, owner of Red Stick Cleaners, Treasurer.

Burns said the Articles of Incorporation have membership rules that should insure that the new Chamber will be composed of “locally-owned” and, in most cases, “family-run” businesses.  The requirements for membership include the following:

• Business must have a location or office in East Baton Rouge Parish.  This includes home-based businesses.

• A major owner of the business must reside in East Baton Rouge Parish or in a parish adjacent to East Baton Rouge.

• No more than 10 percent of the business’ revenues can come from government.

• The owner must agree with the Mission Statement of the organization, which is “To promote free enterprise, individual rights, limited government, traditional family values, character, education, patriotism, national security, and high ethical standards for business.”

• The business must not derive its income from gambling, pay-day loans, pornography, or abortion.

• The business must have a good reputation in the community.

• No non-profit organizations or governmental entity are eligible for membership.

Craig LeBlanc, Vice Chairman for Entrepreneurship, said almost all of the events for the new Chamber will be exclusively for business owners and their guests, who also must be business owners.  LeBlanc said one of the problems with some business organizations that attempt to provide networking opportunities is that their events consist almost entirely of sales people.  “When a business owner does attend such an event, he can be overrun by sales people and not want to come back,” he said.  “The Chamber EBR will bring together business owners themselves to allow them to get to know one another, find mutual interests, and work together.  If this leads them to do business with one another, so much the better,” he said.
For more information on the Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge Parish, call Bob Breaux, executive director, at 279-6008 or Woody Jenkins, chairman, at 921-1433.
SHOWN in photo are (left to right) Woody Jenkins, chairman; Jeff Pollard, vice chairman for policy; Bob Burns, vice chairman for membership; Bob Breaux, executive director; Craig LeBlanc, vice chairman for entrepreneurship; Ralph Washington, treasurer, and Scott McKay, secretary and director of communications.
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