open-minded and open for business. orange county, n.c.

© 2012, Margot Lester & Tremayne Cryer. Click image for larger view.

One of my three words for 2013 is advocate. Here's a short newsletter article I penned for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, which is trying to get more members involved in local government. Though the details are focused on my community, the message rings true for business people in any community.

Our thriving municipalities depend on you, Chamber members.

The community naturally looks to business people for guidance on growing the local economy. Advocating for policies that support enterprise formation, commercial sustainability and smart growth is the only way to protect and grow our vibrant business community. It’s also the best way to foster a multicultural, economically diverse citizenry.

Chamber staff represents members’ positions. But we members must also attend meetings, serve on boards and voice our opinions to put familiar faces on “the Chamber”. Opposing groups come out in force to share their views. If we don’t speak up and show up, we leave the decision-making to those who do.

Advocacy works. During Chapel Hill 2020, many members shared perspectives and suggestions at public meetings and the Chamber presented formal recommendations; many were included in the final document. And even though we lost the Amendment 1 fight, our progressive, open business culture was strengthened when several members advocated publicly against the amendment and our Chamber was the first in the state to oppose it.

We’re all busy juggling competing priorities. But advocacy is a solid investment in your enterprise and your community that yields valuable returns.  If you don’t have time to serve on a task force or advisory committee, there are less time-consuming ways to advocate:

  • Attend a public hearing or meeting
  • Record a commentary for WCHL or WCOM
  • Write a letter to the editor or opinion piece for the paper
  • Inform a local elected or town /county staff member of your opinion
  • Join the Chamber’s Economic Development and Public Policy Committee
  • Share your views on,, Chapel Watch or other blogs

It doesn’t matter how you engage in advocacy. It matters that you do.

A native of Southwest Orange County, Carrboro-based Margot Carmichael Lester owns The Word Factory and Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. She chairs the Chamber’s Economic Development and Public Policy Committee, which meets at 8A on the first Thursday of each month. For tips and tools for sharing your views, check out

Related Content: