Collaboration has remained a constant
As Y2K passed without serious consequences a new millennium dawned, and it was business as usual for the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce. Just as active and successful as it had ever been, the Chamber continued to focus on the goal identified n 1919, dedication to the community as a whole.
In this, the final installment of our glance back into the organization’s first 100 years, we focus more on recent history, take another glance at the past, and look to the future in a conversation with CEO Dianne Hawkins.
Rocking the 2000s
The Chamber entered the new decade running! Building on its prosperous Tourism in Your Own Town program and successfully lobbying of the government with a provincial shellfish policy in 1999, the Chamber became involved in even more local causes. From being instrumental in the installation of “Oceanside Route” signs along the highway and a “Shop at Home” buy local program to establishing a transportation committee concerned with BC Ferries Fast-Cat ferries.
Promotion and support for the new airport made up a significant part of the Chamber’s work during the early part of the decade, as well as helping local retailers prepare for the influx of box stores and influence of e-commerce.
2004 saw the installation of a CEO, Dianne Hawkins, who still holds the position today. Dianne was born and raised in the Valley (fun fact - her grandfather was awarded the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year in 1999!) In conjunction with her experience with the family’s automotive business, as Operations Manager of a private local college, and her understanding of the business community provided a good grasp of local business needs in her role as CEO.
Over the past 15 years, Dianne has seen the Chamber’s activities ebb and flow with the economy and society’s influences, but she notes that collaboration has been the one constant throughout.
Reflections on the past and excitement for the future
From changes in the local infrastructure and economy, how have things shifted over the last couple of decades?
“The community has grown and so has membership. When I first started, we had approximately 400+ members, reached 770 at the start of the next decade, which was the highest we’ve ever had. Of course, changes in economy and the transfer of tourism to the new Visitor Centre in 2012 eventually impacted those numbers. Having said that, the Chamber has always been able to adapt to change and respond quickly.”
And what has remained the same over the years, both more recently and going back decades?
“In terms of challenges, some things remain constant such as transportation, taxes, government red-tape and infrastructure. Other issues have certainly arisen over the years and are impacting individuals and local businesses such as homelessness and affordable housing.
“The Chamber is a strong local voice for business and we are pleased with the level of collaboration we’ve achieved over the years. Collaboration is more than setting up a committee or drawing up a detailed report. Collaboration is an action word; the Chamber is in the community building relationships and discovering innovative ways to get things done with other organizations. People see us making connections – it’s something we do well.”
What projects would you say have been a highlight, both recently and in the last 100 years?
“In the past decade, our work on a companion paper to the Regional Growth Strategy in conjunction with the then Cumberland Chamber of Commerce was well received, working with the North Island Hospital project team and the Campbell River Chamber was fulfilling. In the years preceding that, we loved being involved in the 2010 Spirit Committee with CVEDS and holding Olympic procurement workshops with RBC, as well as the 2009 “Grab Your Bag” Campaign that launched 85,000 reusable bags in the community on February 13, 2009. [In fact, that project lead to provincial recognition and the “Bagless BC Policy” presented by the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce in the 2009 Provincial policy sessions. As a result of the Chamber’s efforts, we were awarded BC Chamber of the Year Award in 2010.]
Back to collaboration, I’m thrilled with the partnerships we have with Island Chambers, our provincial and our national connections. The network is strong.
“Over the decades, as a business focused, membership-driven, nonpartisan organization, the work the Chamber has done has made a difference.” Be it pushing for better roads and services or as an early advocate for tourism and resource-based industries, our influence has been felt through the years.”
Things don’t just happen at the Chamber, it takes a dedicated board of directors and a great team. It took a vision from strong leaders in our community to continue to see the Chamber work effectively in our community and have an influence. Without the dedication of the many boards and wonderful staff I have had the pleasure of working with over the past 15 years we may not have achieved the great things we have. I am honoured to have had the pleasure of working with such dedicated individuals.
And where do you see things going from here?
“Continuing to contribute on advisory councils in our community, whether its liquid waste management, water, grease trap tipping, the Official Community Plan Advisory Council, the 5th street bridge upgrade or any other projects that present themselves. The Chamber will continue to provide resources to our members and the business community as a whole.
“The Chamber will continue to set the standard, focus on making an impact and carry on the tradition of engaging the local community in our plans. The future looks bright for the Chamber and the Comox Valley.”
We’re looking forward to the next 100 years!
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce, and we couldn’t be more proud to celebrate our centennial with the community we’ve championed since 1919.
While the Chamber is best known today for our support of the local business community, promoting and celebrating the entire region has always been central to our mandate.
Did you know, for example, that in 1929 a group of Chamber board members dedicated to tourism promotion loaded their packs and ponies and headed out on an overnight expedition to Mount Becher, many sleeping under the stars near the shores of a then-unnamed lake?
Or that, in 1938, the Chamber president made a humble request that planes travelling from Vancouver stop in Courtenay on their way to Zeballos? Yeah, we had to read that a couple of times to make sure we got it right too! Or did you know that we asked the City of Courtenay in 1940 to put up a sign warning visitors about our 25-cycle electrical system after a poor tourist’s radio blew up?