Editor, The Times:
The last two years as Chamber of Commerce president have been fairly challenging. When the current directors were elected two years ago, we set out to reform how the Chamber worked. We wanted more of a presence in the community, we wanted to give everyone value for their Chamber dues, and we wanted to communicate better with our members and the public as a whole.
To meet those goals we set out to help out at events like the Canoe Regatta and the renewed Canada Day celebrations in town, and to show up or help sponsor other events, like last year’s Small Business Forum and two very successful Chamber “of the Year” Galas. We’ve rebuilt our website, and though we’ve had some issues there, I think we are on the right track.
The Chamber desk at the Infocenter has been supported out of the Chamber’s financial reserves and member dues for the last two years as student grants became harder to get. The goals of communicating with the public and value to all members haven’t been fulfilled as well as they could be, but we have hope with some of the initiatives we will be putting forward at the annual general meeting on Dec. 14.
We’ve heard from past directors and executives that helping out in the community and being there to pass on their knowledge and vision are great, but managing a nonprofit organization is very burdensome. That’s why the current board wants to move the Chamber to a more modern way of doing things: the governance model. The governance model lets the directors do the positive 75 per cent of the work Chambers do and frees them of the 25 per cent drudgery of running an organization, turning those duties over to paid professionals.
As a first step towards this new model, we will be voting on a motion at the AGM to hire a Chamber manager on a trial basis. The goal of this will be to increase communication with members and the public, and to engage members so that they get all the benefits they can from being a Chamber member, like discounts, medical coverage options, advertising, etc.
We will also put forward a motion to reduce the number of directors from the current 11, to a more manageable seven or nine. As part of this, the positions of secretary and treasurer will be merged, and converted into an oversight role, with the actual secretary and treasurer duties being handled by contracted help.
These are the first steps in moving the Chamber forward. And they should free up the new board to get out, get involved, get politically engaged, and be there to help the business community grow through learning and mentorship.
The other major thing we will be doing is electing a new board of directors. I will be stepping down as president, and several other board members now have other commitments that require them to step aside. We need new points of view, new energy, new people involved in Chamber. If you make a wooden nickel from tourism, you need to be involved. The Chamber infodesk, a key tourism asset, needs to be supported or it risks fading away. If you want to be at the table for resource discussions with the regional district, the province or the feds, the Chamber can give you that venue. If you want to see the town grow in a smart way, the Chamber can get you to that table too. Come on out and put your name forward; in this economic climate, sitting back is not an option if you want to succeed.
It’s been an honor to serve as Chamber president and I look forward to serving you on District of Clearwater council. See you at the AGM.
Merlin Blackwell, president
Clearwater and District Chamber of Commerce