Tacky chamber move sets a bad example
When we launched the Pacific Coast Business Times 16 years ago, one of our core values was to respect existing business organizations.
That’s why we went the extra step and joined chambers of commerce from the Conejo Valley to San Luis Obispo. We continue to support our chambers and last year we became a media sponsor of the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber’s programs.
Recently, we learned what our investment was really worth. In mid-March, the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber announced that it was launching a “40 under 40” program, a carbon copy of the popular innovation that Pacific Coast Business Times brought to the region amid great skepticism more than 15 years ago.
The Business Times’ 40 under 40 program was founded in September 2001 – it is our oldest event and was first put to the test in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Forty under 40 has been held in Ventura County since its inception. Forty under 40 is entering its 16th year – we have honored 600 young men and women throughout the region.
We’ve already had feedback that the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber’s program has a look and feel that’s hard to distinguish from the Business Times’ presentation. We think that copycatting our event sets a very low bar for business ethics and it disappoints us that the chamber would compete head-to-head with a longtime supporter and local small business.
Our position is quite simple. If the chamber wants to honor its young professionals, that’s fine by us. We might even support it. Just don’t call it “40 under 40.”
When we wrote to the Chamber in protest, we got back sympathy, minor tweaks to some graphics and a polite brush off. Jill Lederer, the chamber chief, wrote us in an email that, in so many words, “we” wanted to have an event “here.”
Wait a minute. We, as in Pacific Coast Business Times, are chamber supporters and have been for more than 15 years. If “we” are not “we” then who is “we?”
“Here,” as near as we can tell, refers to the Chamber’s service area — mainly Thousand Oaks and nearby communities in Ventura County plus a small sliver of L.A. County. That is a substantial overlap with the Business Times’ own circulation area. The fig leaf that the event technically is taking place in Agoura Hills strikes us as disingenuous.
We don’t see how copying a successful program put on by one of the Chamber’s longtime supporters enhances the Greater Conejo Valley community or chamber members. It may also not sit well with the dozens of Conejo Valley residents who’ve been honored by the Business Times at our 15 previous 40 under 40 programs.
We are calling on the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber executive committee, the board and chamber members to stand up for the rights of an established small business that has been honored by NAWBO, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Ventura, Santa Paula and Santa Barbara chambers and many others.
If you are not willing to do this for the Business Times, you might consider the following question: Which successful company’s ideas will the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber decide to copycat next?
You can be sure that if that happens, the Business Times will stand up for you.
Henry Dubroff, Chairman and Editor
Linda le Brock, Publisher