Thursday, October 15, 2015

Chamber of Commerce asks for assistance from Town Council

Toni Lucas

Sharon Roberts, Aletta Maier, and Lynne Walker appeared as a delegation representing the Pincher Creek and District Chamber of Commerce during the regular meeting of Pincher Creek's Town council on Tuesday, October 13.  They spoke to council about challenges the Chamber of Commerce currently faces,  including leadership, membership and finances issues.

The Chamber of Commerce puts together a number of events, and has a variety of programs it uses to help businesses in the area.  Sharon Roberts is the Chamber president.  She said the Chamber currently has close to 100 members in the area  and has six board members.  "Any time we've attempted to pursue new board members, through approaching our membership, we are usually greeted with apathy, at best," said Roberts.  She explained how the board members, committee members, and staff put together the various events they offer.   "We are an extremely dedicated working board, the few of us that are there."  She also explained that lower attendance and support at Chamber-run events have created an issue with the Chamber's finances.  "We're currently in a bit of a financial dilemma," she said, saying there are no major fundraisers between now and the end of the year.  She said the Chamber may have to access a term deposit to carry them until they are in a better financial situation.

Roberts said they have already downsized the office and cut back on administration.  The catch-22 they are facing is they need an administrator to run the events, or a more engaged membership who will step up to the committees to make the fundraising events happen.  "If we lose the office and the administrator, then we will really not have any events ran by the Chamber of Commerce.  I am not sure how we would fund it, at that point."  She explained the Chamber is not eligible for casinos or raffles, a fundraising source for many not-for-profits.  She said the local membership fees do not cover office rental and the portion that goes back to the Alberta Chamber of Commerce.

One of the events that Roberts spoke about is this year's trade show,  which happened in September.  As the Chamber has not yet received an invoice for the arena rental, Roberts  estimated  the cost will be over $2,000.  "At this point in time I think that bill will be one of those things that puts us maybe too far... that we would have no way to come back from."  She said the Chamber may ask for relief from the Town on that bill.  Roberts said there are two Chamber events left in the year, the Awards of Excellence on October 21, and the Countdown to Christmas on Friday, November 21.

"The Chamber of Commerce is a fairly integral part of this community, and we're in a bit of a bind."

Councillor Lorne Jackson asked if they had considered working with or melding with the Economic Development Committee. Mayor Don Anderberg said "You are going to have to come up with a number that makes your organization viable."  Anderberg suggested presenting a budget to the Town.  "I think that would be the first, proper step."  He said the Chamber offers a number of programs including a discount on transaction machines, and medical and benefits packages.  "A lot of people do not know this stuff."  Councillor Doug Thornton said he wanted to see any plans the board has to turn the situation around, and suggested they approach the MD in addition to the Town.  Mayor Anderberg said any request for relief for a bill for arena usage would have to be presented to council as administration does not have the authority to grant such a request.

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