In Summerland, the district contracts business retention, expansion and attraction, which form much of the economic development portfolio, to the chamber.
In the past two years we’ve worked hard to revitalize the outward facing promotional products for Summerland.
We’ve redesigned visitor publications, created a new stand alone tourism website, new investment advertising, a comprehensive on-line investment and relocation guide, and a growing library of economic development videos.
We also want to keep in mind research that shows that up to 75 per cent of the economic impact in a community comes from business, so retaining our existing businesses and helping them grow is top of mind.
The best way to learn what our business members need to prosper is to ask them.
This year the chamber will host a number of gatherings to engage specific sectors of our business community through targeted meetings.
We want to understand their key issues and advocate on their behalf locally and provincially.
In the fall, chambers of commerce and their municipal governments in the Okanagan will also participate in business walks to learn more about our businesses through face-to-face interviews on their turf.
On a regional basis the chamber partners with other South Okanagan communities to enhance the business climate.
Projects range from succession planning and successful business sales to making sure our business people have what they need to be successful in their markets, whether that’s improved airport connections or attracting skilled labour. Partnerships and marketing are areas where the chamber is resourced to be effective.
There are other elements of economic development that involve our entire community and municipal leadership. One the chamber is suggesting is improving biking infrastructure.
As a community we can enhance trails, signage, amenities and bike supports and encourage business opportunities in this area. Many community groups and the municipality are exploring ways to make this happen. In nearby Washington, biking is a $3.5 billion industry with the majority going to overnight visits.
Another area for the community to consider is cultural tourism. Culture and economic development are closely tied in thriving communities.
One option is activity based. Many tourists are now focused on multi-day experience-related activities where they can participate in the event and then take in other cultural activities and attractions to round out their trip. We encourage the community to grow events that already exist in the community, have the capacity to fill shoulder seasons as well as attract regional and national sponsors and have a lengthy history in Summerland. We have a few that meet these criteria.
Economic development is multi faceted and requires all of us to participate to move our community forward.
It’s a big task, but working together, it can be accomplished.
We appreciate your feedback. Contact me at email@example.com or our chamber president, Kelly Marshall, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christine Petkau is the manager of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce.