While I have some remarks published in the report you’ve all received, I wanted to depart from that and use my minute or two here to comment on some of the details of the year 2020. Starting March 13 last year, our world went into a spin nobody could have forecasted. At the Chamber, we were busy planning our 50 plus events for the year – from networking activities, monthly luncheons, ceo breakfasts, and the biggies like Business Expo, Business Awards, and of course the Commercial Street Night Market. Instead, we had two breakfasts and one luncheon done by that time. Fortunately, we were given a brief reprieve in the summer and received the PHO’s blessing to hold our golf tournament – much to the delight, no – glee — of our 80 golfers. Staff mentioned it was like watching kids AT the first snowfall of the year!

 

We shifted gears upon discovering that what people wanted most was information and knowledge which saw us enter into “uber communications” mode. We produced 13 weekly webinars from March to June interviewing the people who mattered the most – government & community leaders, and the folks who would help businesses the most in securing support funding to help them survive what we didn’t know enough about to know what was coming next. We increased our NewsLine enews from a single issue with five stories a week to a daily issue with twenty-five stories a week and our readership went up 5,000%. We pulled off a virtual Business Awards show with the help of Steve Patterson of CBC’s “The Debaters”. Our workload in government advocacy went sky high as we collaborated with the BC Chamber and provincial ministries to ensure business had the best chance to survive and thrive. And we ended the year on a positive note financially.

 

Thanks to Chamber staff who really moved fluidly amidst all the changes we needed to make, to our contractors who did the same, to volunteers who persevered, to our colleagues and partners in business and government. Especially to civic leaders in governance and the bureaucracy as we worked together on the Health and Housing Task Force, Economic Development Task Force, the reformation of Tourism Nanaimo and development of a new BIA.

 

Among the changes we went through, perhaps the most significant was the board’s decision to look towards the future and our needs for space which resulted in the sale of our building in early 2021 with the intent to purchase property in the city center with proceeds from the sale and make an equity investment in downtown revitalization. While the sale has been completed, the Chamber will not be moving until we’ve found the best space possible that will allow the Chamber to continue serving its members while also paying respect to the membership and past board members and leaders who created the legacy we enjoy now.

 

Kim Smythe, President & CEO

ceo@nanaimochamber.bc.ca

Chamber Executives from around BC met on Tuesday in our bi-weekly Chamber Coffee Chat. Of course, the main topic of conversation was the announcement by the Premier around new restrictions and closures – restaurants and pubs being the most controversial and challenging for all communities. We determined that we needed to speak on behalf of the industry and the tens of thousands of workers impacted so suddenly and drastically by the province’s announcements providing about eight hours of notice of the 100% restriction on indoor dining.

 

The frustration of business owners and operators could be felt in one of our member’s voices as he described that Monday morning he had placed an order for $11,000 for wine necessary to satisfy those dining out for Easter. The week previous he had place substantial orders for deliveries of fresh foods for later this week to hold him over the long weekend. I’m sure this story was repeated thousands of times by restauranteurs over the past couple of days. Unfortunately for most in BC, patios are not an alternative at this time of year. In Nanaimo, the Fire Department refused to permit propane powered heaters on any patio with a covering which would have been the only alternative during the winter months.

 

The repeated and sudden nature of closures and restrictions that provide no notice for the industry to adjust staffing, provision procurement, and credit/cash flow arrangements. The industry is operating in very stressful times since allowed to re-open to reduced capacities late last spring. In our community, a number have closed their doors permanently. I’m sure Chambers across BC would say the same things about their communities.

 

We concluded through this discussion that three things should be considered going forward, and we hope you’ll share this with government to advocate for more consideration for the industry:

  • Businesses impacted (restaurants and pubs) need to be provided with guidance on how to seek support and funding to ensure they don’t lose their businesses. There must be recognition of the sudden impact on an industry already struggling under difficult conditions. Perhaps a special fund separate and distinct from the existing BC Recovery Plan funding.
  • There needs to be more transparency and clarity around the potential for changing conditions on businesses, industries and sectors that are in fragile or threatened territory already. Lack of communication around the decision-making process is resulting in mistrust in the process. We need more clarity, we need to know why, and we need to know how we can properly address the areas of concern for our region. (IE – is it in fact restaurants in all of BC where we are seeing the spike?)
  • Many Chambers would encourage reconsideration of a strategic, territorial approach when considering industry-wide closures. On Vancouver Island, our case count is fortunately very low and the chances of anybody ‘region-hopping’ for the sake of a dinner out would be extremely unlikely. Similar situations exist in the North and the Kootenays among other regions.

 

With the number of people living paycheque to paycheque or tipjar to tipjar, this situation is close to overwhelming for local economies. We can only hope that three weeks really does end up being three weeks!

 

For inquiries, reach out to:

Kim Smythe, President & CEO

ceo@nanaimochamber.bc.ca

 

In 2017 the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association suspended operations and businesses downtown quickly discovered the difference between having a group functioning to support business success and having nobody leading the way.

Since then, different individuals, merchant groups, and the Chamber of Commerce have been contributing their energy to advocate for downtown businesses creating events and promotions to build traffic downtown. Although helpful, the lack of an overall plan, consistency of effort, and focused energy does not serve the needs of downtown businesses well enough.

In 2019, the Chamber began working with merchants to organize a new non-profit society made up of downtown business operators and property owners. That status was granted by the Province in May of 2020 and the organization has applied to the city for BIA status.

The new BIA will:

  • Become the dedicated, independent voice of downtown speaking through a Board of Directors elected at a grass roots level.
  • Work with existing, neighbouring downtown business associations and organizations in partnerships for the common good.
  • Seek funding in addition to the money raised from the BIA levy through partnerships, sponsorships and cooperative campaigns. The BIA will NOT be seeking a partnership with the city to match the levy with taxpayer’s funds.
  • Work with specialists and contractors to undertake promotional programming, events, community development and safety and security.

Now it’s up to downtown property owners to decide if the BIA will go ahead. They have the choice of supporting a small levy on their properties to financially support the BIA. Keeping the number of participants high, keeps the individual levy low. Funds collected would be reinvested wholly in improving the chances of success for downtown businesses. Programming and planning for downtown would focus on attracting shoppers and visitors by providing attractions and events to animate downtown streets. Property owners primarily download the additional costs of the levy onto their tenants who benefit from increased traffic and sales, and an improved downtown environment.

Downtown’s challenges won’t be resolved without the commitment of this grassroots organization, and certainly not without the resources a BIA can put in the hands of this new independent group looking out for downtown. Offer your encouragement to downtown merchants by supporting a new BIA for downtown Nanaimo and, if you’re a downtown property owner, support a brighter future for downtown by supporting a new BIA.

2021 opened up NOT with a clean slate, but with a continuing murky slate. The pandemic is a reality impacting everybody, including all local businesses, for nearly a year now. It’s changed all of our daily lives and certainly turned the Chamber’s world upside down.

 

The Chamber was an organization that brought people together 40-50 times a year knitting the business community’s social network. Last March we quickly turned our attention to the importance of delivering vital information to help guide businesses to government aid and support and virtual programs providing insight, education, and inspiration. We’ve been doing so much more behind the scenes, we decided on this report to shine a light on this work for you.

 

In January, the Chamber agreed to participate in the rebuilding Tourism Nanaimo. Local stakeholders – Nanaimo Chamber, Nanaimo Hospitality Association, Snuneymuxw, Petroglyph Developments, VICC, and Nanaimo Port Authority – are among those being tasked to create a new community-based model. The Chamber looks forward to developing an organization that will help our local community rebound from the cataclysmic impact Covid has had on travel, tourism and hospitality.

 

We also helped lead other Island Chambers in a letter writing campaign to support a local business with touch points in many Island communities — Wilson’s Transportation’s Tofino Bus. The recent suspension of this business has implications beyond tourism — Tofino Bus was the only safe transportation option for many First Nations communities in the mid-Island region – 21 communities to be precise. This prompted the Nanaimo Chamber to engage with the Regional District to encourage an examination of how we can create safe, inexpensive inter-regional travel in the future.

 

Nanaimo led Chamber leaders across BC in support of Mayor Krog and the UBCM ‘big city mayors’ consortium in the province to acknowledge the need for a dramatic shift in thinking to deal with the three crises we’re staring down – affordable housing, addiction, and homelessness. We also requested the Province look into its century-old municipal charter to open the ability for municipalities to look beyond property taxes and utilities as their main sources of revenue while senior governments continue to download onto local taxpayers.

 

In January, the Chamber’s role on “Mayor & Council’s Task Forces on Health & Housing” and a task force on “Economic Development” ended with major reports to Council. The reports and attendant action plans have been approved by Council. This concludes over twelve months of cooperative work by community leaders who gave a tremendous amount of themselves during difficult times and conditions. The Chamber is proud of the outcome, especially the Nanaimo Prosperity Agency – a new external economic development agency reporting to the City and governed by community stakeholders.

 

The Chamber approached City Council February 17 seeking a staff report on the impact of freezing commercial tax rate increases this year due to Covid’s impact on small business locally. The motion passed. At the very least, we’ve drawn attention to the pandemic’s impact on local business, we will benefit from the report from the City finance department, and we will have started the discussion on the future of Nanaimo’s tax structure and its impact on business. We’ll keep reporting back on our further progress to relieve the tax burden on the community.

 

The Chamber has planned Virtual Events this year replacing our ‘live’ events with new experiences. And it’s not just “Chamber on Zoom”. Try joining us remotely…  we’re making this video-conferencing transition interesting and fun while constantly improving our technology and building solid content!!

 

And please reach out to agree or disagree with me at any time.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Kim Smythe, President & CEO

P: (250) 756-1191 X. 1

ceo@nanaimochamber.bc.ca

Partnership to tackle Nanaimo homelessness begins implementation action

Nanaimo, B.C – The City of Nanaimo’s Council led Health and Housing Task Force, which was established by Nanaimo City Council this year, in partnership with the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition, and United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island have joined forces with Turner Strategies and HelpSeeker to support system change initiatives to address current community challenges relating to homelessness.

READ THE FULL NEWS RELEASE HERE …  News release_Coordinated Access_NHC CoN

 

Report to Council October 28. 2019

Findings & Recommendation:

Impact on business and residents of homelessness and social disorder

Click here to download the full report.

The Nanaimo Child Development Centre has been promoting optimum child development by serving children and youth with developmental needs and their families since 1967. The Nanaimo Child Development Centre is the oldest Child Development Centre across British Columbia.  Their services are free of charge.  Through generous individual and business community supporters they can provide support services, education, and needs navigation to the families as well. 

The Nanaimo Child Development Centre is a CARF accredited organization.  Winning awards like this help them maintain the level of professionalism required to meet these standards.  On a more personal level, the Nanaimo CDC has many therapists working with children and their families throughout the Ladysmith, Nanaimo, and Lantzville communities who they’ve been able to share the success with.  To the Nanaimo CDC this “is an honour.” 

The Centre is very excited to be a main partner in the Inclusive Playground renovation that will be taking place in 2020 at the Maffeo Sutton Playground Park location. They have also started hosting inclusive play days for the community.  They believe these are great for the community because all children and youth should be able to enjoy activities and nature. “When everyone is included, everyone wins.”– Jesse Jackson 

Check out their website at www.nanaimocdc.com, like them on Facebook at Nanaimo Child Development Centre, or follow them on Twitter at @nanaimoCDC 

Habitat for Humanity Mid-Vancouver Island is a not for profit organization with a mission to provide affordable homeownership opportunities to families across the Mid-Vancouver Island Region.  Safe, decent, and affordable housing can have a transformative impact on families and on the communities in which they live.  Research shows that kids do better in school, parents’ employment prospects improve, and families are happier and better equipped to face life’s challenges after moving into a Habitat home.

Habitat for Humanity raise funds via their two ReStores, which sell new and used building supplies, home décor, furniture, and lighting, as well as through donations. With the support of their volunteers and community supporters they can build homes for families experiencing housing poverty who would not qualify for a regular mortgage.

Winning this award was “wonderful as it showed us that our local community in Nanaimo is supportive of our mission and understands what we are working to achieve.”

The impact of the winning the award has been to encourage everyone at Habitat for Humanity to think about how they can go even further to meet their Corporate Social Responsibility goals.  For example, they are looking at working with local contractors to divert even more waste from landfill, they are planning to hold community clean up events, and they have big ambitions to be able to provide more affordable homes for local families than ever before.

Habitat for Humanity has a busy few years ahead of them with home builds planned for the Cowichan Valley and Nanaimo and will hopefully be expanding into other parts of the Mid-Island region. They would like to welcome more volunteers into our ReStores and onto our Build Sites and keep connecting with communities at local events.

Check out their website at www.habitatmvi.org, like them on Facebook at Habitat for Humanity Mid-Vancouver Island, or follow them on Instagram at @habitatmvi!

Click here to download PDF!

Harbour Air was founded in British Columbia in 1982. With two small de Havilland Beaver seaplanes and a plan to service the forest industry, Harbour Air began by offering private charters to log buyers visiting the coast. With growing success and an increasing demand on both commuting and touring service, the company quickly expanded over the years adding daily, frequently scheduled flights between Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, the Sunshine Coast and Whistler.

Today, after over 35 years in business and more than 40 aircraft, the Harbour Air Group consisting of Harbour Air Seaplanes, Whistler Air and Saltspring Air has become one of the largest all-seaplane airlines in the world.

Amongst other accolades, Harbour Air is recognized as a platinum member of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, a recipient of the Cumberbatch Award for Safety by the Air Navigators Guild, a Canadian Signature Experience, a Business of the Year in Victoria and a National Recipient of the Visa Canada Experience of the Year Award. In 2007 we became North America’s first fully Carbon Neutral Airline.

This year (2019) the founder of Harbour Air, Greg McDougall, was inducted in the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame!

Winning this award is special for John because he knows what a fantastic job his team does daily and this proves it. Awards that are voted for by the travelling passengers and public always mean the most as it’s a true gauge of how we are perceived within the community we serve. The award serves as a great motivator and morale boost for the staff. Customer Service is not always the easiest business to be in but we strive to be the best we can.

The biggest thing currently on the horizon is of course the Electric Aircraft Fleet announcement we made back in March. We are currently partnering with MagniX from Australia in the creation of the first electric seaplane, with the rest of the fleet to follow.

We are also looking at some new routes to connect Vancouver Island and the lower mainland, so stay tuned for those announcements.

Check out their website at www.harbourair.com, like them on Facebook at Harbour Air Seaplanes, or follow them on Instagram at @harbourair (use the hashtag #flyHA and they might feature your photo!)

Click here to download the PDF!

Nanaimo • September 20, 2019

SELLING NANAIMO TO THE WORLD

The Vancouver Island Export Forum is an added attraction to the 2019 Business Expo on October 3 in the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. The Nanaimo Chamber recognizes that manufacturing and export traffic to destinations regionally, and around the world, are rapidly growing. New business supports are available to those in the export chain for both suppliers and vendors. The Forum will highlight some of these.

The Island’s Foreign Trade Zone designation, the Port Authority’s Short Sea Shipping advantages, the opening of Export Navigator offices here, and recent rapid growth of advanced manufacturing on the Island are all great reasons to launch the Forum now.

“Whether your business is actively involved in export trade, or you count manufacturers and exporters among your clients and colleagues, this is an opportunity to gain information and advantages early in the game. Advanced-manufacturing is a rapidly growing sector of the mid-Island economy feeding the export trade activity of the Island” according to Kim Smythe of the Nanaimo Chamber.

George Hanson of VIEA, Export Navigator Fabrizio Alberico, John Juricic with the Island Manufacturing Council, and Jason Mitchell of the Nanaimo Port Authority will form a panel moderated by Nathan Seaward of the YPN. The discussion starts at 1:00 pm in the Lantzville Room at VICC and is co-presented by the Nanaimo Chamber and Young Professionals of Nanaimo.

Topics include the simplicity of profitability through mid-Island export markets, the diversity of products and services that are considered as ‘exports’, offshore destinations include… (anywhere off of Vancouver Island!), and who your friends are – a look at trade partners around the world!

At 2 pm, the Forum features the Belgian Trade Commission who will encourage exports to Europe by taking advantage of the new Canada Europe Trade Agreement using their country as the portal. Expanding trading partners is always health and CETA makes Europe even more attractive.

Help kick off Small Business Month in BC. Find out what’s happening with business in Nanaimo today at nearly 100 trade show booths. Trade Show and Forum attendance and registration is free! Register Now!