Business is good at the Duncan-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce.
A balanced budget, a growing membership list and evidence of a successful advocacy effort had members and staff smiling at the annual general meeting held Nov. 29 at Arbutus Ridge Golf Club.
“We have certainly lived up to our tag line: Connect, engage and achieve,” said Chamber president Julie Scurr.
“It has been another fantastic year for us, another year of record growth in membership, another year of providing unique networking and learning opportunities for members and yet another year where your Chamber has proven that we are the voice of business in the Cowichan,” she told the gathering of about 75 members and guests.
Executive Director Sonja Nagel says the Chamber set a goal of reaching a membership of 500 and made a concerted effort in May to attract new members.
“We did reach our goal of 500 members. In fact, we are at 526 members, up from last year’s 486 at the AGM. We added 27 members in May alone,” Nagel said.
Scurr says the Chamber has stepped up its networking and partnering efforts as well as continuing to lobby on issues that are important to business interests in the Cowichan Valley.
“We work very closely on matters of economic development and tourism with our local governments, along with the Duncan Downtown Business Improvement Association and the Duncan Tourism Committee,” Scurr said.
Nagel said a highlight of 2017 was Dine Cowichan.
“Twenty-four restaurants from across the Valley participated in the three-week festival with hundreds of patrons trying new restaurants and enjoying special menu pricing.
“We’ll be back in 2018, Feb. 23 to March 11, for Cowichan’s second annual Dine Cowichan.”
Nagel also announced that the Black Tie Business Achievement Awards will return in 2018 and nominations are now being accepted.
On the advocacy front, the Chamber supported the Port Alberni Port Authority’s proposal for a new container ship port in Sarita Bay and condemned the federal government’s proposed tax changes for small business.
“Other advocacy issues we were involved in were creating a level playing field for B.C. breweries, distilleries and meaderies, closing the gap on residential and non-residential taxes and maintaining the reduced business tax rate for credit unions who are most often the only financial institution in a rural or underserved area.
“Again, another win as the province has agreed to reinstate the reduced rate,” Scurr said.
In the coming year, Scurr said, the Chamber will be playing a role in addressing important issues like housing and attracting and retaining workers.
“The tight labour market has led to several instances this year where businesses have had to close their doors due to short-term labour shortages,” she noted.
“The cost of labour is another significant issue for your members, especially with the possibility of an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Raising the minimum wage tends to ratchet up all wages, creating additional strain for business.”