A mix of newcomers and past members gathered at Evergreen Hall for the annual general meeting of the Bowen Island Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Feb. 23.
Among the guests was mayor Jack Adelaar who said, "Council wants to set up an economic office or officer. We have realized that the tax base has been stagnant for a while. We want to increase the tax base and we want to lean on new economic activities, not on the residents." Adelaar said he hopes to work with the Chamber to move forward.
Daniel Heald, past president of the Chamber, said, "In the last ten years, the Chamber has been on a path of promoting tourism almost to the exclusion of everything else. I have to say it has not been an entirely successful strategy." Heald said that the visitor centre has seen a dramatic reduction in visitors from 17,090 in 2009 to 7,204 in 2011. He said that the Chamber is looking forward to only playing a supportive role in the operation of the visitors' centre as the Bowen Island Arts Council will enter into a partnership with BC Tourism and use the facility to promote the island as a cultural destination. Heald said that one of the proudest accomplishments was to build a closer relationship between the local business and arts communities.
Rob Wall, manager of the Chamber, said that membership has dwindled drastically. "In '97, we had 270 members, last year that number was down to 52," Wall said. Wall suggested to reach out to other sectors, particularly the construction and service industries, for new members. Wall has many ideas for moving forward, one is a new website called bowenfinder.com. He plans to organize workshops and speakers that address the challenges of opening a new business. He says, "The present high failure rate is not good for our community."
For this summer, Wall proposes events in Snug Cove. He said, "[Bowen] Rotary will set up the stage and the Chamber will provide the tent. We'll create a performance space in the empty lot in the cove."
James Tuer of JWT Architecture presented the plans for Snug Cove he had drawn up in collaboration with the municipality's planning department and said, "There is the misconception that all those schemes involve heavy costs. That is not true if we give the business owners the incentives to develop." He added, "Planning exercises like this need to go beyond elections. Development in the cove can be a way to increase the tax base."
As new board members Jan Chilvers, Marc Baur, Carol Cram, Kevin Manning, Rod Marsh, Alan Mills and James Tuer were elected.