Declaring that small businesses are the driving force of job creation in Maryland, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 23 introduced a new membership model designed to organize thousands of businesses as a unified force, while also forging close collaboration with the dozens of local chambers of commerce throughout the state.

Under the terms of the Maryland Chamber Federation, any business with 10 or fewer full-time employees that is a current paid member of a participating local chamber will receive free federation membership with the Maryland chamber, a press release states.

Already, 14 local chambers of commerce, including the Calvert County Chamber of Commerce, have signed partnership agreements enabling them — and their small business members — to participate.

Federation partners will gain increased influence in the state legislature through direct input and participation in the Maryland chamber’s legislative activities.

They will also receive proactive General Assembly representation aggregating chamber “clout” to oppose initiatives harmful to business and supportive of job growth. In addition, members will gain access to all Maryland chamber communication on state issues through legislative briefings, grassroots business action updates, e-newsletters, calls to action during the legislative session and more, according to the release.

In making the announcement at the kickoff of the Maryland chamber’s annual “Meet the State” event in Annapolis, Christine Ross, president and CEO of the Maryland chamber, said in the release, “Not only are small businesses a key constituency of our grassroots advocacy efforts, Maryland’s overall success in the national and global marketplace is directly tied to the state’s ability to foster a climate that is competitive and favorable to small business.”

Intended to both serve and empower small businesses (a sector that makes up almost 92 percent of Maryland’s registered companies), the Maryland Chamber Federation is based on a partnership with local chamber members, one intended to ensure the voice of small business is amplified with minimal investment and maximum impact, according to the release.