In order to advocate on behalf of a business community, a cause or a group of like individuals, it’s very common in the United States to form a chamber of commerce. Such chambers are voluntary organizations, led by a president or CEO and a board of directors.
Veterans and active-duty military make up quite a large group, but sheer numbers do not always make for a solid front. Locally, entrepreneur Andre Haynes saw an opportunity to bring together not only military and ex-military individuals, but also those who support people who served. Enter the Armed Forces Chamber of Commerce.
“The main reason we formed was to serve the specific business needs of armed forces members,” Haynes said. But once formed, the overall mission was expanded. “Later on we received a lot of requests from advocates who wanted to become members because they had products or services that benefited armed forces members and their spouses. So we extended memberships to veterans advocates and other civilians.”
Haynes just celebrated the chamber’s two-year anniversary, and he said the group has some 250 members. At monthly business mixers, he said, there is a component such as those that can be found at most average mixers where people are able to network and be introduced to one another.
“But my favorite thing is that we actually incorporate military traditions into the event. We have a military chaplain who does the invocation, and we have a JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) that presents the colors. And a professional vocalist who performs ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’”
New members are sworn in with an oath that Haynes said is similar to the oath taken by service members, giving allegiance to the ideals and high standards of the United States. Haynes is quick to point out that he is not a veteran himself, but he honors those members of his family who did serve in the military.
“My family served going back to the Korean War to the present day. Two of my relatives were at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7. And we have relatives on both my mother’s and father’s side who served.”
Haynes said that he works closely with the U.S. Small Business Administration and hosts business workshops in cooperation with other organizations. “We have done workshops with the Nevada Women’s Business Center, with Microsoft, and we focus on specific subjects, where members can get hands-on training from experts.”
He said some of his resource partners that offer training and/or member discounts include Office Depot/Office Max, Nevada Department of Business and Industry and University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.
A 26-year resident of Southern Nevada, he said he is dedicated to having veterans and military members grow and sustain their businesses.
“Our vision is to help increase the profits and number of employees of those who are involved with veterans businesses, or who own such businesses.”
Supporters and advocates are also a large part of his vision, and as sometimes unsung heroes, they deserve to be honored, he said. The Nevada Department of Veterans Services, while not a part of the chamber, does recognize such individuals by naming a Veteran Supporter of the Month 12 times a year. Haynes continues that tradition by inviting such individuals to join the chamber.
For more information, Haynes can be contacted at armedforceschamber.com.
Chuck N. Baker is a Purple Heart veteran of the Vietnam War and the host of “That’s America to Me” every Sunday at 7 a.m. on 97.1-FM.