Navigating change and plotting the path forward were the central themes during the Chemainus & District Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting.
The meeting was conducted via Zoom, with about 17 members tuning in. The keynote speakers were Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley and North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring.
“Overall, it was just a positive experience,” said managing director Emily Weeks. “Technically, it went quite smoothly. Definitely, we’ll look forward to in-person again, a bit more engaging than staring into our screens.”
It’s only been eight months since the last Chamber AGM at the end of July when Stephanie Ballantyne of Re/Max Ocean Pointe took over as president and other new executive members/directors were enlisted. The only new addition this time is Patricia Berry of the Chemainus Public Market as a director.
“We managed to get a lot done in an hour,” noted Ballantyne. “It was an excellent, well-orchestrated annual meeting given the circumstances and using Zoom.”
Lifetime membership awards were presented to Brad and Peggy Grigor, with Roy Summerhayes giving a heartfelt presentation on their accomplishments and contributions that merited the designation.
“We wanted to start giving these out on a regular basis to those who have been instrumental in the longevity of the Chamber,” said Weeks.
In her president’s report, Ballantyne noted a lot has happened amid the pandemic just since her tenure started on Aug. 17, 2020.
“As we worked to ensure that our member businesses and community had the support and access to information required to navigate the uncertainty and challenges that confronted them, we also needed to take a step back and rethink the way that we do business as a Chamber,” she indicated. “Our assessment of Chamber operations in the fall of 2020 led us to identify priorities and the immediate need to restructure. This was essential, not only for improved efficiency and service delivery, but to the continued viability of the Chamber after two years of running a deficit, rapidly depleting revenues, loss of event income and insufficient contingency planning.”
Looking ahead, “we are committed to building a stronger Chamber – one that is supported by an experienced and diverse board, engages its members and communicates effectively, plays an active role in supporting the broader community and attracts new members through value-added programs,” Ballantyne emphasized. “We are focused on strengthening our relationships with key stakeholders to foster economic development and develop new initiatives that benefit businesses and the broader community.”
New online education opportunities and member discounts will be offered in 2021, along with greater exposure for members with an enhanced business listing portal on the Chamber’s website and a digital marketing screen at the front entrance of the Visitor Centre.
In his treasurer’s report, Corey Jansen of West Coast Pre Fab recapped how the board made the difficult decision to close the office during April and May after the COVID pandemic hit in March. By June, staff created a back-to-work safety plan to reopen the office and funding was received for two seasonal employees.
“During the 2020 AGM held in July, there was a common sense of concern surrounding the financial well-being and sustainability of the Chamber as it stood,” Jansen indicated. “Membership investments were down and we were not able to operate our weekly Wednesday Market, July Giant Street Market or Golden Brush Awards, which are all substantial fundraising events for the Chamber.”
This led to the restructuring of the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Centre that took place at the end of October 2020 and resulted in a savings of $23,000.
“Thus far into 2021, we have switched internet and phone providers, resulting in more modern equipment at lower costs, and received the Canada Emergency Business Account loan,” Jansen added. “With a new approach to business memberships we believe this year will bring more money into the Chamber.”
The annual grant from Destination BC of $20,000 has been received. The Chamber has also been approved and awaiting the annual Municipality of North Cowichan Grant-in-Aid of $27,500. Applications have been filed for four Canada Summer Job positions.
“We are looking forward to hosting our weekly Wednesday Market this summer, as well as our Golden Brush Awards and potentially a golf tournament,” Jansen added.