With a challenging 2011 now in the rearview mirror, the Westbank and District Chamber of Commerce is looking forward to a brighter 2012.
“It (was) a challenging year, there’s no doubt,” said Craig Brown, president of the Westbank Chamber.
One of the main challenges came in February, 2011, when the Chamber opted to stop running the organizing committee for Westside tourism and handed that responsibility back to local governments.
“What we did is we looked at our core values . . . advocacy, driving new members and education through our membership wasn’t really being taken care of,” said Brown.
He said letting go of the tourism role was “the correct move” and allowed the Chamber to focus more on its own memberships.
“Same thing with the visitor centre, we chose to give that back and have the district take over. It really wasn’t allowing us to do what we do best: Focus on our members.”
Brown added that the district has done an “amazing” job with the Visitor Information Centre, moving it into the museum.
Now with the tourism responsibilities—which had taken up nearly 60 per cent of Chamber staff time—out of the way, Brown said that the focus has shifted to the Chamber’s members.
“The focus is really working with our members and providing what they pay for: Education, advocacy, networking, and all of the other levels that the Chamber is supposed to deliver.”
One of West Kelowna’s biggest concerns is its downtown core. Brown said the Chamber is in support of the District of West Kelowna’s plans to revitalize the town centre; however, it is keeping a close eye on the decision makers.
“We’re in support of what they’re doing . . . we want to make sure it’s done correctly,” said Brown.
Along with making its own future brighter, Brown hopes the Chamber’s relationship with the District of West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation improves.
“We would really like to improve our communication with them. I think in the past the biggest thing with the Chamber and all levels (of local government) was a lack of communication.”
Classifying 2012 as “a year of action”, Brown said that the Chamber has several new initiatives planned.
These include a six-times-a-year newsletter to keep West Kelowna educated in what the Chamber is involved with, a September trade show to bring local businesses together and a series of lunch and learns and drop-in sessions to allow members additional time to network.
He also credited the Chamber with having good leadership.
“I think we have a very strong board—the directors work very hard and the level of communication within this community is excellent. I think, as a group, we’re in for a good year.”