2015 Chamber Presentation to City Council

During the election, the Chamber of Commerce conducted a community awareness campaign with the goal of increasing voter turnout by one third. Several community organizations contributed to Nanaimo actually meeting that goal – a 30{3236bfe566a0d68e2245ffbb9d220fc7554709fab7d664768e3da2edc73a1bc9} increase in voting day turnout which has delivered new opportunities!

As Council has been made aware, the Chamber operates independent of public funding which permits us to bring the position of the business community before you without any bias or concerns over funding discrimination.

For the first time, Council is starting on a four-year term. We ask you to consider carefully the legacy you want to leave at the end of that four years and work towards that legacy from today onward.

In consideration of that, we offer the Chamber’s 2014 election platform as guiding principles and philosophies for Council for this term:
Leadership & Teamwork – The Chamber encourages Council to set a clear direction and define the vision it intends to pursue for the City. Council needs to seek consensus with the community and collaborate with its partners to meet goals more efficiently and achieve its vision.

Maximize Core Service Efficiencies – Don’t spend what you don’t need to! There are many models for program and service reviews that can help us ensure the city budget is delivering the greatest value for the services demanded by the taxpayer. And… your staff can be your best friend here!

Transparency & Community Input – Every candidate committed to open communications. Now, Council members needs to seek meaningful, ongoing input from residents — in every format and through every medium. Council should be engaging in two-way communications and adopt strategies to reflect community input in policy-making.

Be Informed, Engaged and Responsible – The community needs you to focus on making informed decisions, permitting you to vote on the value of a proposition, not the politics of it — especially in the heat of the moment.

Strive for Community Prosperity – Initiate policies that promote healthy private, public and not-for-profit business activity partnering with organizations that help obtain results. Job creation, and a strong local economy, are based on these sectors’ sustained health and growth.

Here are six action items prioritized by the Chamber for incoming Council. Our membership includes many individuals and businesses equipped to make your job easier. Chamber members would like to play a continuing role supporting Council in these areas:

1) Updating the 2012-2015 Corporate Strategic Plan to keep pace with Council’s vision for the coming term and 5 year Financial Plan. The Chamber would assist in integrating the principles of its Successful Cities program again to the City’s updated plan.

2) Leading a ‘Green Tape’ Committee — a Mayor’s Task Force or Standing Committee seeking areas where municipal processes can be streamlined and made more user-friendly. The goal is to remove bureaucratic barriers and ease congestion.

3) Reviewing development & building permit procedures… compare with best practices from other communities, seek efficiencies and define processes to meet stakeholder needs.

4) Overhauling Sign Bylaws… with the Chamber taking a lead position on a Mayor’s Task Force to reduce duplication of regulations and collaborate on goals for reasonable legislation and aesthetic oversight.

5) Core Review: Thanks for moving ahead so quickly on a process the Chamber has been promoting for years. Let’s make sure we define achievable goals in the ‘discovery process’, and choose an EXTERNALLY GUIDED review that includes broad community and stakeholder participation opportunities. Most importantly, we must follow through on implementation. The Chamber looks forward to being part of the community that must be part of the process.

6) Relaxing the current, inordinate burden on commercial property owners by freezing tax increases on Commercial Rate Payers until 2020. We have a comprehensive presentation we’d like to make to Committee of the Whole and the Finance Committee where we can demonstrate the positive value proposition of this over a five year financial plan.

Delivered at February 16, 2015 City Council meeting

Social Enterprise Builds our Business Base

There’s a new business movement growing among us. It’s called ‘social enterprise’ and it’s coming to a corner store (or other business) near you. Get ready to compete… or collaborate.

A ‘social enterprise’ is defined as a business organization – mainly non-profits — whose mission, conduct and revenue stream address a cultural, social and/or environmental need as their principal goal. Profits are targeted to the common good through sales of products and services. Many of these businesses also offer employment to people who face barriers to mainstream employment. They’re not all charities and, indeed, for-profit businesses can also operate at social enterprises.

Local examples include “Code Brew” – the fantastic coffee kiosk in the lobby of Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. They’ve opened a second location in the Millstone Medical Centre, and have plans for more soon. Bought something at a thrift shop? Been to the Recycling Exchange? Bought a book at Literacy Nanaimo’s downtown bookstore? You’ve done business with a social enterprise who, combined, contribute millions to the local economy.

‘Social Enterprise Catalyst’ is an event that celebrates this movement. It highlights available resources to support the development and growth of local, social enterprise-based businesses. Catalyst partners are all key parts of the social enterprise eco-system including credit unions, banks and the financial management sector, foundations, mentors, educational institutions, sector specialists and consultants, Chambers of Commerce and the provincial government.

The first Catalyst Gala was held in Victoria in April of 2014 where a “Dragon’s Den” style event saw three non-profit social entrepreneurs awarded a total of $50,000 in cash and services to help boost their success. A trade show and workshops were also associated with the event. Attendees were invited to a ‘Day of Learning’ at Royal Rhodes to follow up on discussions.

‘Catalyst’ is moving to Nanaimo with the main event to be held on May 20 at the Port Theatre. The Chamber is proud to be an organizing partner. Why is the Chamber involved? Nearly 10{3236bfe566a0d68e2245ffbb9d220fc7554709fab7d664768e3da2edc73a1bc9} of our membership are non-profit enterprises, and strengthening this sector drives business and builds the GDP for everyone in the community.

We’ll be reaching out to build awareness around opportunities to participate and apply to compete for funding and resources at the climactic Catalyst event. Got ideas on how to help this work? Want more information now on Social Enterprise or the Catalyst events? Call the Chamber of Commerce at 250-756-1191.

Kim Smythe, CEO

February 2015