Peachland Chamber of Commerce Eyes A Bold New Future
Last week an anonymous source handed me some information about one of our councilors who also has ties to the Chamber of commerce. I want to be as fair and transparent as I can be, so I decided just to call the Chamber president directly. I went to the Chamber website to get that information. I haven't really followed the Chamber much since Rocky was the president. According to the website, Larry Guilbault was the president. I eventually tracked Larry down and we had a good conversation about things.
Regarding the Councilor information that I was given, my opinion is that given the circumstances we all find ourselves in with regard to the COVID situation, I am of the opinion that there is no real story in this information. Yes, I'd like better optics, but the factors that control our perception of events right now suggests that there weren't many alternative options for how the matter could play out. To that end, I consider the issue to be a dead end.
What I did learn, however, is that our environment right now is significantly impacting a lot of people. Businesses are suffering, and many people are out of work as a result. Mr. Guilbault informed me that he is no longer the president of the Chamber and that many changes are happening at the Chamber right now. Guilbault says a new slate of directors will be announced soon.
The critical issue for the Chamber right now is that under their normal operating plan, there is no real revenue source since all events are restricted or canceled due to Covid-19. With no revenue, the Chamber could only operate with either a grant from Peachland or a grant from the Province. The province will give us nothing since they play partisan politics and will absolutely punish us for not electing an NDP MLA. And citizens that I've spoken with just don't believe that Peachland tax dollars should go to supporting the Chamber of Commerce.
Current conditions put the Chamber is in dire straights if they don't find a solid revenue source. Relying upon memberships won't work because even if they had 100 corporate members, that is not enough money for an operating budget. My sense is that the Chamber should vacate its current premises, layoff any paid staff, and find a tiny cubby-hole to work from. The Chamber needs to reconvene around voluntary services and get back to the core values that built this town to begin with. The website and all technical aspects of the Chamber need to be stripped from the control of one man and placed into a simple yearly contract for the Chamber that costs just $120/year. Web services and maintenance should be voluntary only, and perhaps even a training exercise for local high school kids with an interest in this kind of stuff.
The current Chamber location, in my view, appears to have been set up as a knee-jerk reaction to losing the contract with the city for running the Tourist Center. The design and layout of the downtown office suggest that the Chamber wanted to become the real “tourist center” – and in doing so – defeating the will of the electorate.
When I moved here in 2015, I interviewed many businesses before joining the Chamber. Most of them reported that the Chamber was useless to them. My own findings were that the Chamber's web assets were used to advertise Bed and Breakfast establishments for the directors. They relied on the Tourist Center money from the township to survive. If they had kept that contract, none of this would be in the news today.
So here we are – going into 2021 with a lot of things dangling. What will become of the Chamber? Does the Peachland Chamber's current structure serve the greater community? Will the Chamber survive long-term? Has the Chamber learned any lessons through all of this? I think that if the Chamber is going to be around and functional a year from now, it is going to have to re-think the current operating plan. Times have changed.