Clearwater and District Chamber of Commerce is the voice of local business.
We, the residents of the upper North Thompson Valley, depend on those businesses for our quality of life and, ultimately, the survival of our communities.
That means the Chamber is too important to be allowed to fade away and die.
Everyone involved, but especially business owners and managers, needs to step up to the plate and get involved.
About two dozen people attended a meeting held earlier this month to discuss whether or not to shut down the Chamber.
The consensus of the meeting was that the Chamber should be kept alive. However, whether that will happen or not remains to be seen.
Your editor started reporting on Chamber happenings more than 30 years ago.
During that time the Chamber has had its ups and downs.
There have been setbacks, but also some major accomplishments.
Possibly the most important of these was the creation of District of Clearwater as a municipality. Over the years the Chamber was a major force pushing for incorporation.
Another is our thriving tourism industry. Information Wells Gray (which operates the Infocentre) and Tourism Wells Gray (which receives the hotel tax money collected from local tourism accommodations and uses it to promote tourism) both started out as sub-committees of the Chamber.
For many decades the Chamber’s annual Citizen of the Year banquets recognized not just the Citizen of the Year, but Businesses of the Year, Employee of the Year, Youth of the Year and so on. These were important community-building events that, unfortunately, have been allowed to go into hibernation.
Similarly the Wells Gray Loppet, a cross-country ski marathon that used to be held in Wells Gray Park for many years, was very much a creation of the Chamber. It, unfortunately, was allowed to die because of lack of volunteers but its legacy lives on in the cross-country ski trails in the park, the Wells Gray Outdoor Club and the Wells Gray Birchleg.
Haying attended more than my share of Chamber meetings, there is one suggestion I can make to help make the organization more viable.
That suggestion is that, every year, the Chamber should bring in some outside expert to train the membership on how to hold a meeting.
Art Marcyniuk, a former owner of the Wells Gray Inn, was one of the most effective Chamber presidents that your editor has witnessed.
He ran a very tight meeting. An agenda was drawn up beforehand and it was stuck to. No one was allowed to speak off topic or dominate the discussion. As I recall, a lot of business was completed but the meetings rarely lasted more than an hour.
Small business owners do not regularly spend a lot of time in meetings. They get the information, maybe talk with a few people, then make their own decisions. Quite frankly, how to make decisions in a group is a skill that small business owners often do not have.
At the same time, those small business owners quite correctly see their time as valuable. If they go to a meeting that drags on and on, and accomplishes nothing, they won’t go back.
I hope the above suggestion will be taken as constructive criticism. I also need to make clear that I have not attended as many Chamber meetings in the past few years as I did formerly, so I am not sure that the situation has not improved.