Chamber gearing up for 2015

Chamber set for inaugural meeting on Jan. 23, presentation of citizen of the year award.

It’s a new year and now that the 2014 calendar has rolled over, there is a new board of directors for the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce.

Heading up the executive branch of the board is Dave Struthers, with Chris Thom serving as vice president.  Chris Botterill takes on second vice president duties, while Jeanette Sissons will serve as treasurer. As past president, Dave Butler will still have a presence in the organization.

Nicole Anker, Brian Rhodes, Brenna Baker, Carrie Schafer, Heather Jackson, Igor Gallyamov, Jane Campbell, Jason Fast, Joey Hoechsmann and Ryan Gibbard will all serve as directors on the Chamber board.

Chamber members will get a chance to see the new executive and board at the inaugural meeting on Jan. 23 at the Heritage Inn.

However, the event is more than just the unveiling of the new board as the Chamber will also present the Citizen of the Year award to Derek Kortschaga, who captured the nomination in December.

Looking ahead, the Chamber is working on keeping and expanding membership under the direction of newcomer David Hull, who took over the executive director position vacated by Karin Penner, who recently retired after 31 years with the organization.

“We’re working quite diligently right now—the staff is—we’re looking at all the things the Chamber does, making sure it’s what we want to do and provide the best value to our members,” said Hull.

“We’re really focused on going back to our roots and being a member-based organization. As a professional business organization of choice, we’re always looking to represent our members and to vigorously promote and defend trade and commerce in the area.

“To that end, we’re having a strategic planning session with the board and a facilitator in a couple weeks and that’ll set our direction for 2015 and a fair bit of 2016.”

Just two weeks into the job, Hull has six years of experience as executive director of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and worked for 12 years in management consulting.

“This Chamber has a storied reputation among what I call ‘Chamberland’ to be a real well-run Chamber,” said Hull. “Certainly Karin Penner has laid a foundation for me that is second to none. All I need to do is take her good work and keep building on top of that.”

Right now, the Chamber has a membership of roughly 475, with 500 being the goal, according to Hull. Smaller towns tend to have a larger percentage of chamber membership as opposed to larger cities, he added.

A basic measurement is looking at the number of memberships versus the number of business licences.

“We’re at about the 27-28 per cent mark of business licenses, which is good,” Hull said. “It’s not where I want it to be, but it’s a good start.”

Attracting new memberships is always a goal, but Hull is looking at putting a retention plan together to make sure existing members remain within the fold.

“That’s really going to be our focus in 2015 is retention, and we’re going to do that by communication. We do provide relevancy to members but we’re not really good—this is we the collective Chamber movement—we’re not really good at having our message out there and our good work well known.”