Chamber renovations see funding setback

Issues with funding arose prior to the beginning of the renovation, forcing the Chamber to reconsider budgeting strategies.

The Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce (CVCC) has almost fully completed the renovations to its existing chamber offices, visitor information space and boardroom. The bid was made by CVCC to Columbia Valley Community Directed Funds (CVCDF) to enhance functionality, aesthetics and to increase the professionalism of the building.

“The work is mostly complete; there are just a few finishing touches that need to be finalized. We came in at five and half per cent over budget, which is mindblowing to me and it’s a direct result of a number of the tradespeople who were very generous by under-billing their hours, so that we could stick as close to the budget as possible,” said Susan Clovechok, CVCC executive director.

Issues with funding arose prior to the beginning of the renovation, forcing the Chamber to reconsider budgeting strategies.

“In my regional submission in the fall, I indicated they would have a $75,000 line of credit, which I had confirmed with HSBC. Prior to the renovations starting, I contacted our account manager (to say) that we may be accessing it for cashflow purposes. I was told it was gone —- they had cancelled it without even advising us, because we hadn’t used it.”

“We had it for more than two years and hadn’t accessed it… I’ve since discovered that particular institution tends to do that,” she said.

After being advised at one point that it would be reinstated, Mrs. Clovechok was then informed that senior leadership had declined the line of credit as a corporate lending strategy, so other organizations such as BMO Community Futures were approached, requiring personal guarantees.

“Our finance committee determined that they would not go that route and if we’re not successful being granted the $25,000 (from the CVCDF program) we would have had to run very lean for the balance of 2015.This was an issue of cashflow and the inability to service,” she said.

The Chamber, however, received $3,500 from a Discretionary Grant in Aid and the Columbia Valley Community Foundation is currently considering a new lease agreement.

“We’re negotiating a new lease agreement for $465 a month that will start in either February or June and the second office will be available for rent, and we want to have that available for short-term, hotel-type rentals.”

Funding that would be available in other communities is difficult because of the nature of the CVDCF, said Mrs. Clovechok.

“Other chambers throughout the Basin have received similar support, but due to the structure of this committee, our project cannot go directly to CBT… it’s my understanding that if we didn’t serve the entire valley and if we were called the Invermere Chamber of Commerce, we could apply for the community grant funds, so we’re kind of caught in the gap.”