The week of February 15th to the 19th 2021, was Chamber Week and marked a time for everyone to take a moment to both celebrate the work that Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade do across British Columbia, and reflect on the challenges that were presented to them during the 2020 pandemic. I wanted to use my column this week to reflect on just how the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce has reacted and adapted to this new environment that we find ourselves in.
Chamber’s have historically been the main avenue for individuals and businesses to net¬work, develop referral partners, and advocate on behalf of their members. Chamber’s are volunteer driven organizations, usually consisting of an elected volunteer board of directors, and depending on its size some paid full-time staff. Over the years Chamber’s have helped developed cost-efficient programs for their members, including maintaining a member directory for access by public, a Chamber Group Insurance Plan which offers affordable benefit options to members, marketing, and in-person networking (although this remains currently suspended due to health protocols).
Chamber’s have, historically in cooperation with local Business Improvement Associations, and various community groups, advocated on behalf of their local communities. The Cloverdale Chamber, tracing its roots back to the 1950’s, has always sought to support our local business but also advocate for our communities to all levels of government (local, provincial and federal). We have a dedicated advocacy committee which constantly is seeking out feedback from our members and the business community on the issues most pressing to them. We seek to relay these issues to the different levels of government while also hosting regular events that allow our members to directly speak with government officials, both elected and staff.
This past Chamber Week was different for the Cloverdale Chamber and many other Chambers across BC. 2020 has been hard on individuals and business, the communities of Cloverdale, Clayton and Campbell-Height were no exceptions. Some businesses closed, staff layoffs took place, and revenue declined as everyone worked together to beat this pandemic. Chambers were forced to adapt to this new environment.
The Cloverdale Chamber adapted to these changes in order to better assist our members. We suspended in-person networking and our monthly lunches, while shifting to online forums such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. We were fortunate that our Executive Director and the Chamber staff were quick to adapt to these new formats, and while it did take time to adjust, the Chamber staff has shown a remarkable ability to grow comfort¬able with the use the new online platforms.
Our Chamber further adapted with how we provide information for our members. Due to the flurry of government related Covid-19 programs and measures, our staff quickly sought to categorize and familiarize them¬selves with these programs. This information was distributed to our members through Chamber emails and through phone calls received from members. The Chamber be¬came a forum for dispersing information to our members so that they had access to it in a timely manner and could then utilize the programs available.
As we have sought to return to some form of normal the Cloverdale Chamber has continued to utilize the online platforms, for networking events, hosting community discussion and even allowing members to question candidates in the 2020 BC Provincial election. We have sought feedback from our members and the local communities on what they need and want, whether it is commercial rent assistance, wage subsidies, or information on how the Canada Revenue Agency will handle post-Covid benefits during tax time. We are constantly looking out for our members, getting the information they desire and showing that when one feels helpless or overwhelmed, we are there to try and help.
The emphasis on adaptability and resilience has was at the heart of the BC Chamber of Commercer’s celebrations during this past 2021 Chamber week, and the Clover¬dale Chamber echoes this focus. A lot has changed and will continue to change as this year progresses, and the Cloverdale Chamber will continue to adapt to better help our members and the wider communities of Cloverdale, Clayton and Campbell-Heights. We are all in this together and the Cloverdale Chamber, like our members, has shown that we can adapt and be resilient when the times get tough. We remain forever at the service of our members and the wider communities.
Submitted by Tyler Dennis, President