Recently the Summerland Chamber of Commerce held its Annual General Meeting.
Like many non-profit organizations, our members don’t turn out in droves for this event.
They miss great food and door prizes but more importantly they miss seeing what the chamber accomplished on their behalf in the past year, where the budget was spent and what is planned for the coming year.
They also miss the opportunity to meet their new board of directors.
The board’s role is important as the Summerland Chamber is the third largest Chamber in the Okanagan after Kelowna and Kamloops and among the 25 largest chambers in B.C.
As well we are the largest membership organization in Summerland with more than 750 business, corporate and associate members.
As I shared at the AGM, the chamber’s role in any community is to represent the interests of the business community and to advocate on their behalf.
We do that on a national level through the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, provincially through the B.C. Chamber network and here in our own community at the municipal level.
Through the nomination process outlined in our bylaws and communicated to members annually, voting members elect a board of directors charged with setting policy for the chamber.
Here in Summerland the chamber has done this for more than 75 years.
Much of the time, this process and the ramifications go unnoticed by members.
Occasionally though, the chamber board must take a stand on a particular issue and, as the elected board, must speak out on matters that pertain to business growth and improvement.
Again, it is our bylaws that dictate that only the president of the chamber (or their designate) is authorized to make the chamber’s position on such issues publicly known.
This occurred at the recent public meeting regarding the District of Summerland’s proposed by-law amendments to the Official Community Plan.
At that time, I spoke from my personal perspective as a downtown business owner and also as the president of the chamber elected to represent the interests of the business community.
We have communicated our support for the district’s proposal, and continue to support it, as it balances a number of important community priorities and is a reasonable and forward-looking solution for ensuring land is available in the coming decades for community growth.
The full text of our position was published in this column in February and also posted as a blog on the chamber website.
In the past weeks, we have received communications from approximately three per cent of local business license holders who communicated to us that they did not agree with the chamber’s position on this issue.
We very much appreciate their efforts in writing and we acknowledge their position.
The chamber board cannot know the wishes of all of our individual members, but as elected by them, must speak to the needs of the business community as it applies to our long term growth and vibrancy.
The board understands that the current delay in the process will allow time to accommodate everyone who wishes to speak to the issue at a public forum.
This is commendable and we urge all members of the community to attend the upcoming public meetings to discuss this important issue.
However, we also believe that delays of this kind send mixed messages about Summerland’s support for growth to the wider business community, to the agri-businesses that are interested in relocating in the proposed areas and to our citizens.
We encourage mayor and council to remain committed and to proceed with their progressive agenda of building our community.
We always appreciate your feedback. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Christine Petkau at email@example.com.
Arlene Fenrich is president of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce. All of the members of the board of directors serve as volunteers.