New regional chamber gets advice from Minister Black
Minister Iain Black, hosted by the City of Greenwood last week, rang in the new era for the regional chamber of commerce for the Boundary region last week. Black, Minister of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development (at the time) was on tour to recognize small business month in the province. Black, accompanied by Boundary-Similkameen MLA John Slater, was welcomed by local government representatives, Community Futures Boundary, the Greenwood Board of Trade and some West Boundary business owners. The topics of the day were the challenges facing the newly forming regional chamber. The session was held in round table format with discussion, questions and information sharing between everyone present. The concept of the regional chamber has been approved by all existing chambers and over 300 businesses across the region. But the volunteers involved don’t want it to fall into the same problems that made the existing chambers falter. Volunteer burnout, operational funding, and the challenge of serving a large geographic area were discussed. “Although our membership is pretty good right now, it certainly has not always been that way,” explained Jim Nathorst, president of the Greenwood Board of Trade. It’s trying to get people to participate – and for us it’s all volunteer of course. But they have to look beyond what they might put in here today for some kind of pay off tomorrow – its not always that way. Its definitely getting better and we’ve proven that there are some things you can do to improve your community without a lot of money.” Black shared his insights into the characteristics of a healthy chamber of commerce and encouraged the need for dialogue and community engagement. “I think that what are missing (for chambers of commerce) are the vibrancy and the level of engagement. So its not just social networking, though there certainly is a level of that, but it’s more than that,” said Black. “It’s a professional level of engagement that says ‘I am contributing something to this and I’m getting something out of this.” Black also introduced a couple of pilot projects that might be useful for the region: a mobile business licencing program, and the provincial BizPal program. Mobile licencing would allow a business that operates in more than one community to purchase one licence that covers the region. Currently, if a company works in, for example both Midway and Grand Forks, they would have to purchase two licences. This system would create one licence with a different fee structure to work in all areas. BizPal is more of a one-stop licencing system set up to save time for business owners. It is an online system that asks a short series of questions about the nature and scope of the business. Based on the answers, the business owner will be provided with a customized list of potential permits and licences from all levels of government that may be required to operate the business. Black said that the Ministry would be willing to provide the BizPal program if the region requests it. Overall, Black’s message was one of encouragement and respect for the work of small businesses in the region.
“At the end of the day government has two jobs to do and there’s no finish line to either one of them,” said Black. “One of them is to pave the way, and the other is to get out of the way. The get out of the way part is this – lets not make it more difficult than we need to for people to take the risks.”