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Chambers are struggling to reinvent themselves Here’s one showing how to get it done

One key for Brian G. Tangora, president, North Jersey Chamber of Commerce, is making membership more affordable for all.

Few regional Garden State chambers of commerce grew their membership by more than 100 in 2014, and most didn’t grow at all, according to NJBIZ’s annual Book of Lists.

So what does that mean for the North Jersey Chamber of Commerce — the third-oldest chamber in the state?

It means it is an exception.

Contrary to all expectations of a 117-year-old establishment, the across-the-board trend of membership stagnation doesn’t apply to a North Jersey chamber that’s keen on revitalizing itself.

The organization welcomed nearly 200 new members in 2014. In the past two years, since undergoing a leadership transition, its membership has increased by two-thirds. It’s now at 525 members, placing it at No. 19 on the Book of Lists’ largest chambers, up from No. 27 the year prior.

But the chamber had a lot of territory to reclaim. It was up to more than 1,200 members about 20 years ago, which put it around the range of the list-topping central and southern Garden State regional chambers.

By the time Brian Tangora took the helm as president of the chamber in 2013, it had lost considerable ground: It had about 300 members.

That’s less than the chamber that serves the Eastern Monmouth area. Far less.

Needless to say, Tangora wants the North Jersey establishment he inherited to have a seat at the table of major chambers again. And he’s seeing promising signs:

“Our Leads-N-Lunch event has already become the state’s largest monthly lunch event,” he said. “We had 288 attendees at the last one. And we had 35 people attending just over a year ago.”

That’s even more of an accomplishment considering Tangora hasn’t spent a dollar on marketing since becoming the chamber’s president. Here’s what he did do:

Brett Johnson

NJBIZ Business Events