Membership grows and businesses benefit
As the 1980s kicked off, inflation soared, and the Iran hostage situation dominated headlines. Disco’s beat went on, but its days were numbered. And in the Valley, the effects of a slow economy could be felt. But by the end of the decade and into the nineties, the Chamber had got its groove back.
Staying alive in the eighties
For the Courtenay-Comox Chamber of Commerce, the 1980s began with a membership of just 40. But by 1982 membership had increased to 98. At the 1983 AGM, guest speaker Nanaimo Mayor Frank Ney spoke with optimism about the economy, urging the audience to look ahead to growth and brighter days. Turns out he was right. By 1984 membership increased from 253 to 306 making the Valley Chamber one of the largest on the Island.
This era of growth continued as the Chamber worked for greater civilian aviation use of CFB Comox resulting in the announcement that a new multi-million-dollar civilian air terminal facility would be built. A Valley 86 committee formed in order to reap the benefits of Expo, and the chamber office had a computer system installed!
The middle of the decade also saw a proposal for a Comox Valley Economic Development Committee to be run in association with the Chamber. The idea of local businessman Bill Walton, he felt an organization with representation from municipal governments and special interest groups and staffed by a Chamber-hired administrator would diminish the possibility of parochialism. By summer 1986, the Economic Development Commission formed under the terms of the provincial government’s Partners in Enterprise program.
After years of feeling ignored and lobbying for their own Chamber, Union Bay finally joined in with CV Chamber in December 1987. Other items that took precedent included the Chamber’s support for a public transit system and opposition to the proposed federal goods and services tax in 1989. Even though it looked as though the tax was a fait accompli, bright spots like the BC Lions training camp and the likelihood of a new highway ended the decade on an upswing.
Note-worthy in the nineties
The Valley truly was the land of opportunity in the 1990s, as the fastest growing Regional District outside the Lower Mainland. The North Island College expansion, a new shopping centre, Saratoga Beach and Mount Washington development all offered entrepreneurial possibilities.
In July 1990, BC Transit started running in the Comox Valley. The inaugural day saw 2,000 people crowd aboard the new buses, causing schedules to be delayed throughout the first day of service.
“The Deuce,” the old steam locomotive next to the Chamber, had fallen into disrepair by 1993 due to neglect and vandalism. Three years and thousands of dollars and volunteer hours later, it got restored to its former glory and even had a new set of stairs attached so school children could safely go up and through the cab. (People can still view it today when the Chamber is open!)
In 1994, the first annual Trumpeter Swan Harvest Banquet took place with proceeds going to the Wildlife Legacy Fund to protect the birds and their habitat. As host to one-tenth of the North American Pacific Coast population of trumpeter swans, this cause captivated many locals. In fact, a swan even made it onto the Chamber’s new logo in 1996, which people were welcome to come and view on the Chamber's new “World Wide Web site on the Internet” at a special reception at the Filberg Centre.
As the decade progressed, new lifts on the mountain, a new theatre, McDonald’s and Aquatic Centre added to the area’s allure for locals and tourists alike. And for the Chamber, the decade ended with some notable accomplishments.
In May 1999, it submitted and successfully supported a lobbying policy at the BC Chamber of Commerce annual convention. One of 80 policies reviewed, The BC Shellfish Industry: Environment, Export and Employment detailed the tremendous potential of the industry; the policy was supported unanimously and distributed to the provincial cabinet and all MLAs. The achievement was comparable to having a private member's bill passed in the legislature. The previous year, a joint submission with the Campbell River chamber led to the re-establishment of the Inland Island Highway to Campbell River to four-lane status. This reversal of policy was directly due to the lobbying efforts of both communities initiated by the Chambers of Commerce.
Even with worries surrounding the arrival of big box stores like Walmart and the uncertainty of Y2K, the future looked bright as the Chamber and its member headed into the new millennium.
Come celebrate with us at our centennial bash and dance to tunes from the amazing Time Benders on September 28 at the Native Sons Hall! For tickets, click here.
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The Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce has been serving the community proudly since 1919.