Recent financial reports state that Charter Communications is going gang busters. 2016 third-quarter revenues totaled about $10 billion, compared with $2.45 billion in the same period the prior year.
Charter officials attributed the increased profit to higher income since closing on a $55 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and a $10 billion buy of Bright House Networks. Those deals made Charter the No. 2 cable carrier in the country after Philadelphia-based Comcast.
This is great news for the shareholders of Charter Communications, I suppose. But it is not so great news for us here in Owensboro. For months, we have been working with Charter Communications/Spectrum representatives to receive their membership renewal. In fact, it was due in October of last year. After several phone calls, visits to their local office, letters and emails, we finally received response from a company representative in Louisville that said Spectrum was reviewing Chamber memberships. That they would be staying members in some larger areas, but would drop memberships in others.
So a company that has the cable franchise in our community does not value its corporate presence enough to be a member of the local chamber? That hit us hard here for several reasons.
From a historical perspective, the local cable company has been a member since its inception. And throughout the decades, through different corporate acquisitions, it has continued its membership.
From strictly a business perspective, our Chamber office is actually a customer of Spectrum. In one and a half months, we pay an equivalent to Spectrum what their annual dues would be.
Ironically, as we have been trying to get our calls answered, a funny thing happened. A Spectrum salesperson came to our offices twice for help in locating new potential commercial customers. Of course he would visit our office, because that is one of the reasons our Chamber was formed over 100 years ago – to connect businesses with one another in an effort to grow the economy. And the salesperson assumed that his company was a member. He was right to assume that. Because they should be.
Membership dues and events revenue are the only sources of revenue Chambers have. So when companies posting billions in profits do not invest in local chambers in communities like ours, but still have a local franchise agreement and a large share of the commercial and residential market, what message does it send about their commitment to the small business, non-profits and the residents who pay their monthly bill?
It says volumes.
By Candance Brake President and CEO Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce