MOULTRIE — The Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce is a bit starry-eyed today.

The organization has made it into the upper echelon of U.S. Chamber of Commerce organizations, having been accredited with 3-Stars.

Months of preparation paid off big. Of 6,936 chambers in the U.S., only 298 are accredited at all and four of those are state chambers, information from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said. From that top 4 percent, 35 percent (105 chambers) reach 3-Star status. Thirty-five percent (103) are in 4-Star status while 13 percent (38) have the highest distinction of 5-Stars.

In this year’s round nationwide, the Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber was among only five receiving the distinguished 3-Star rating.

“The last time we did this we were a 1-Star,” said Chamber President Darrell Moore. “It’s good news.”

To achieve this standing, chamber volunteers and staff performed an intensive self-assessment of operations in nine areas of work. including governance, government affairs, and technology. Over the past three years, the local chamber has increased membership and has increased its average retention rate from 84 to 97 percent. Total income for the chamber has increased as well.

“Accreditation in one of the highest honors bestowed on chambers fighting for pro-growth and jobs policies at the federal, state and local level,” said Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a letter to the local chamber. “This distinction honors your commitment to helping to advance the principles of free enterprise — the bedrock of this prestigious award.”

“I was really proud of the staff and the volunteers. They put in a tremendous amount of work to put this together. It’s not something that we have to do, but we think it’s a good periodic evaluation. One thing I told the board is that it forces us to look at things we wouldn’t ordinarily review on an annual basis, like going through your by-laws and personnel manuals....,” Moore said.

The accreditation review process also spurs ideas that the local chamber has set in motion with new programs and procedures, and it’s good from a service standpoint.

“It really endorses everything the chamber is doing. It lets us know and our members know that we’re doing a great job and service to the community,” he said.

The designation is great, Moore said, but more important is the work the staff and volunteers do to earn it.

Georgia, with a total of 24, is second only to Florida in the number of accredited chambers. The Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce ranked among the top 20 accredited chambers in the state.

Other communities in the area accredited at the 3-Star level are the Cordele-Crisp County Chamber of Commerce and the Bainbridge Decatur County Chamber of Commerce. Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber is accredited with 4-Stars, and the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce received a 5-Star distinction just this year.

The next chance at accreditation for the Moultrie chamber is in 2012.

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