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South Cariboo Chamber at risk of folding

The Chamber is in need of new ideas and direction

The South Cariboo Chamber of Commerce is calling for businesses to get involved in the organization or risk losing it.

The call comes after a survey last summer seeking input for the chamber drew only five responses from the community. The chamber has struggled to find directors to start new initiatives over the past couple of years.

“If we’re not getting the businesses’ support and feedback, the chamber is on the verge of closing,” chamber vice president Martina Dopf said.

The chamber has been in the community for more than 40 years, offering various benefit packages to businesses as well as liability insurance for events such as the Santa Claus Parade. Member benefits include discounts, Chamber Bucks, and advertising on the chamber website, plus membership in the BC Chamber of Commerce, which gives them access to the Chamber Group Insurance Plan.

“We, as the chamber, want to work and promote all businesses in the South Cariboo. What we’re hearing is we’re too focused on the downtown retail community which is only a small part of the economy,” Dopf said.

However, both she and chamber president Donna Barnett stressed that if businesses want the chamber to evolve or do something different, they need to be part of the solution.

Barnett said the chamber really needs to hear from members.

“We need those new businesses out there to come in and tell us what direction we should go in. What would they like to see,” she said.

“People on the street say ‘well this should be done and that should be done’ but without them contributing at both the board and table level, we don’t have the ability to do it.”

Wrangler’s marketing director Don Jones was surprised to hear the chamber was considering closing. “That’s not good news. I really don’t know what the business community as a whole would do without it,” he said.

He added there are “so many benefits to having the chamber compared to not having it. I think it would be an absolute disaster if they closed their doors.”

The chamber initially got its start in the late ‘60s operating until the mid-’70s when it closed due to lack of interest. It was restarted in 1981 when the economy was going nowhere and there was focus or direction to get initiatives in place. At that time, upwards of 50 people attended the monthly luncheons.

Since then, the chamber has become an integral part of the South Cariboo Community. It hosts and supports events such as Music in the Park, Citizen of the Year, What’s Hoppening, Hot July Nights, and the Wranglers, to name a few.

“Just about every community event, the chamber has either put some money into it, provided the liability insurance or had some relationship in some way,” Barnett said.

The chamber relies on the membership to keep its doors open and continue the work they have been doing to support other non-profits and organize events. Dopf urges members to reach out.

“If there’s no interest anymore in the chamber, then we will fold.”

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Fiona Grisswell

About the Author: Fiona Grisswell

I graduated from the Writing and New Media Program at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George in 2004.
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