The Rush of Success
The Chamber Board of Directors has set a clear mandate – strengthen commerce in Fernie. How does this tie into an adrenaline issue? Well, championing the needs of business is exciting and our projects and activities are driven by bursts of energy found by pulling groups of businesses together to tackle issues. It is exciting and amazing to see the strength found in businesses coming together to work for common goals. Our connected business community becomes very alert to its surroundings and allows us to quickly react. Our business adrenaline is creating change that is the catalyst for long-term sustainability.
A thriving business community means a thriving Fernie, and Chamber wins are community wins. Thriving businesses support the community. It comes in quality jobs, event sponsorships, volunteerism and philanthropy. A strong business community attracts more businesses and services to the area. Over the past three years, Fernie has seen an average of 65 new businesses per year and last year the Fernie Chamber welcomed 42 new members.
Our work, life and play are intricately connected in this community and the valley. As we strengthen one, the opportunities and qualities of the others are improved. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all directly.” The health of our business community affects us all.
The Chamber champions the needs of business on many fronts. We work on advocacy, economic development, and education opportunities for business.
Perhaps the biggest adrenaline rush comes from our advocacy work. The Chamber has worked with the City to update the mobile food-vending bylaw, we started the discussion on short-term rentals, and we supported the inter-community mobile business licence. The Chamber represents business on City of Fernie committees, including the Resort Development Strategy Advisory Working Group, Beautification Committee, and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Committee. We are a catalyst to progressing the Station Square upgrades – a plan to create a downtown square near the new public washrooms that will be an inviting space. Studies show the longer people spend in a downtown, the more money they will spend. And, final pieces are being put in place for highway to downtown signs that tell travellers about the many shops not visible from the highway.
The Chamber takes on Economic Development through participation in larger collaborative projects like the Elk Valley Economic Initiative (EVEI) and Imagine Kootenay. EVEI promotes the valley as a smart choice to investors and hosted the AdVenture Capital Conference last year. The Chamber is the first point of contact for Imagine Kootenay, which is an investment portal to the Kootenays. We have created an investor ready document in partnership with Imagine Kootenay to attract investment to the area. The Chamber secured the support of Selkirk College and funding from Columbia Basin Trust to complete the first local Business Retention and Expansion Survey, giving us a quantitative understanding of our businesses needs and challenges. The survey results now guide work being done by the Chamber.
The Chamber supports business with education programming. Save the Taxes, Social Media Tips and Tools, Communication Tools of the Trade, and Moments of Power, are a few of the education courses we have offered in the past six months to strengthen business. Eighteen months ago, we launched the Fernie Ambassador Program, which is a customer service and Fernie training course. The goal is to give Fernie businesses the tools and skills to offer an exceptional customer service experience. We have trained over 250 Ambassadors to date and businesses are seeing returns, as their staffs are confident and selling.
The Chamber is always scanning the environment and working on programs and projects to build commerce in Fernie. A constant challenge we hear from businesses across industries and sizes is that finding people to work is hard. The Chamber is putting together a Human Resource Attraction and Recruitment program to assist businesses with their search. We are also nearing completion of our Co-Working and Accelerator Space feasibility project, which will support a variety of business models. It is through Chamber membership fees and project grant funding that the Chamber is able to do this work and champion the needs of business.