There’s a platinum celebration happening for a staple of the Comox Valley business community as the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce is set to celebrate its 100th anniversary later this month.
From economic challenges to major infrastructure changes, the core of what the chamber does truly has not changed drastically throughout the past century of operation, explained CEO Dianne Hawkins.
“It’s always been membership-driven. We don’t reply on funding to move our agenda forward. We’ve always been able to adapt to change and respond quickly.”
In 1919, a group of businessmen officially chartered the chamber, then called the Board of Trade. Membership cost $5, and the board stipulated members must be directly involved with tourism.
Despite the initial mandate, the board quickly became involved in many issues which involved the Valley – big and small.
During the 1920s, the board became involved in pushing not only for an airport for the region, but ferries between Comox and Powell River, and Buckley Bay and Denman Island.
Hawkins said during the 20s, 30s and 1940s, the board advocated for a variety of services for the Valley, including improving road access, lowering BC Tel charges and the championing of a new wharf in Comox.
In addition to championing for economic growth, the board also became involved in hosting civic events and dances, including hosting Valentine’s Day dances.
They even assisted to reduce the cost of gas by four cents a gallon, added Hawkins.
“There were different situations (the board worked on), but there are still the same needs, such as housing, fisheries and oil. We’ve had some challenges, but we’ve stayed the course. We have always been a group of business people who have been able to rally together.”
She noted one theme looking back at the chamber’s history is the ability to truly collaborate with other organizations – whether that is other businesses, governments or chambers.
Recent examples, she said, are the North Island Hospital Project as well as the reusable bag project which saw 85,000 reusable bags launched within the community in 2009.
“Being part of the chamber is invigorating; you get to meet all kinds of people in both big and small businesses.”
Looking at what is ahead for the organization, Hawkins said projects that the chamber will be examining include ride-sharing, a governance review, hosting all-candidate forums for elections as well as adopting sustainable environmental goals in-house.
“We want to set the standard and engage the local community in our plans.”
Former chamber chair Bob Scales said membership with the organization comes with a powerful non-partisan voice from the business community which can influence local regulations as well as policies set by both provincial and federal governments.
“The Courtenay Airpark is a good example of efforts by the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce with a more recent initiative being the introduction of multi-use shopping bags which is now catching on with other communities around B.C.”
Scales said the century mark is an opportunity for the business community to give themselves a big “pat on the back” and for the local community to express their appreciation.
In honour of their centennial, the chamber is taking the opportunity to recognize long term members as well as past chairs.
On Sept. 28, the chamber is hosting a Centennial Bash with the Time Benders at the Native Sons Hall on Cliffe Avenue. Tickets are available online or in-person at the chamber office at 2040 Cliffe Ave. in Courtenay.
For more information, visit comoxvalleychamber.com.