CV Chamber raises local business challenges

Provincial AGM reveals valley is uniquely positioned

As many local businesses depend on the volatile tourism market, the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce is always working towards increasing tourism activity and the  visitor rate. Taking their ambitions from the local level to the province, representatives from the Columbia Valley were in Vancouver from May 23rd to 25th to participate in the BC  Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 annual general meeting.

Discussing small business concerns on behalf of the Columbia Valley were Columbia Valley Chamber executive director Susan Clovechok, president Rose-Marie Regitnig, and vice-president Craig Knapp as well as Radium Chamber of Commerce board director Doug McIntosh.

“The policies that were passed at the conference are now part of the 2013 BC Chamber’s policy manual,” said Rose-Marie Regitnig. “They will now meet with the government and lobby on our behalf.”

She said that when drafting resolutions, Chambers are responsible to draft proposals that are economically sound, and don’t offset the provincial spreadsheet.

“If we suggest something like a tax break, then  the resolution needs to include a suggestion for the government where to find that money elsewhere.”

One resolution that the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce would like passed involves golf. Many local businesses would benefit if golf  would be an allowable tax-deduction for business, she said. When the tax-break was created decades ago for hockey as an example, golf was viewed as an elitist sport in the same sense as yachting. While businessmen can treat hockey-loving clients to platinum seats at an NHL game and write the tickets off as a business expense, a game of golf is not eligible for the same break. “Twenty years later, yachting may still be for the elite, but golf has become an everyday sport,” Regitnig said.

In working to increase local tourism, the Chamber also addresses the stability of the local economy,  one of the Columbia Valley’s biggest challenges.

“How do we even out the peaks and valleys of our tourism revenue?” Regitnig asked. “The valley has to find small enterprise; small business and entrepreneurs to come in and provide employment – we need to diversify so that we aren’t so dependent on one thing.”

Citing Kicking Horse Coffee as an example of a small local start-up business successfully growing, Regitnig   said one of the roles the Chamber  can play is to help any of its members in business to grow and to advance to the next step in their enterprise, by directing them to eligible grants and loans, as well as providing relevant knowledge and information.

One of the many sessions at the Chamber conference focussed on the topic of Chamber memberships. Regitnig said communicating the value of a Chamber membership to younger business owners is a challenge throughout the province because younger generations have become accustomed to cost-free memberships, largely through online organizations.

But regardless of competing technology, “it’s refreshing for people today to come to a mixer, meet people and have face-to-face conversations,” she said. “It was interesting to hear how other Chambers face that same challenge. Some allow members to layer and customize their membership in a way that’s relevant to their businesses.”

Political landscapes  were also a topic at the AGM, specifically the effect that Barrack Obama’s second term and the B.C. Liberal’s re-election will likely have on the province.

Former B.C. premier Mike Harcourt was featured as a keynote speaker, one of many guests with whom the local representatives had the chance to network. “Meeting other people who are sitting on these boards and doing similar work for small businesses is invaluable,” she said.