There is plenty to get involved with in the Chamber

February 20 marks the beginning of Chamber of Commerce Week 2012.

February 20 marks the beginning of Chamber of Commerce Week 2012, an opportunity for local Chambers across the province to demonstrate the outstanding value they provide to their communities. In appreciation of business we will be serving tea, coffee and snacks from 11a.m. to 2p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24 at the Chamber Visitor Centre, 125C South Shore Road, Lake Cowichan.

Leadership, community and partnership, these are the three elements that define a Chamber of Commerce. Chamber contributions are a tangible part of the municipalities and regions they represent. While each Chamber of Commerce is as unique as the community in which it operates, the value of every Chamber is grounded in three common areas of importance: advocacy, benefits and services.

The advocacy efforts of local Chambers represent some of the most important work that they do. Through provincial and national avenues, Chambers bring local issues of concern, not only to their members, but to the community at large, and to the attention of government. By giving these issues a voice beyond the local level, Chambers provide much needed input to public policy which benefits their local economic and social well-being.

Benefits and services constitute two other areas of Chamber focus. Our Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce provides direct benefit and service programs for its members, helping them to put their very best foot forward in business, which in turn stimulates the local economy. Our Chamber is also hard at work promoting and assisting our local communities; whether by hosting and organizing events, or by running the area Visitor Centre and promoting tourism, our contributions are a tangible part of the region we represent.

Chambers’ of Commerce are leaders in action. Chamber of Commerce Week serves not only to recognize and applaud that action, but also to bring further awareness to members of the public, and members of Chambers alike, of the true breadth of the Chamber Network’s influence and importance in British Columbia.

Our mandate is to represent and promote the business community of the Cowichan Lake area. We also work to make our communities better places to live, work and play. During 2011 we were pleased to be part of the following:

•2011 began with the Chamber’s AGM on Feb. 24 as well we held our 2010 Awards Night. Micha Anderson won the Nichole Stock Community Service Award and the Citizen of the Year Award went to Blake Sprague.

•Apr. 23 the Chamber held its Tenth Annual Spring Fling Dinner/Auction led by the program and events committee— a very dedicated team —who made sure that it was an enjoyable and fun filled evening for all. Plans for the 2012 11th Annual Spring Fling is set for Saturday, Apr. 28 are well underway. Your support of this event is needed by volunteering and donating auction items.

• In May the Chamber was involved with Family Heritage Days. We hosted the community at the Visitor/Business Centre by providing coffee, cookies and juice which were donated by Country Grocer. There were awards for best heritage costume, best business window, best parade costume and best decorated kids’ bike. More than 300 were in attendance in Saywell Park for treats and prizes. This was a great day for the community and it brought us a lot of positive exposure.

•In June as part of the Lake Days we organized and staffed the Breakfast in the Town which is funded by the Area F and I CVRD Regional Directors. Bill Allan and his team of pancake flippers once again contributed by ensuring the day started off with a great breakfast. After cleaning up from breakfast we moved to Saywell Park under the gazebo where the concession was constructed and again Chamber members helped in making sure the day’s events were successful. We look forward to continuing to assist where we can in the future. Lake Days is a tremendous opportunity for the community and volunteers are really needed to keep this event successful.

Also during this month we held the Chamber’s annual small business BBQ, Tony and Curtis of Greendale Riverside Cabins did a fantastic job in hosting the Chamber BBQ. 69 of our members attended and enjoyed the grounds, the games and the food. This year Greendale Riverside Cabins will celebrate their 125th anniversary. The goal for our Chamber is to have 125 of our members attend this year’s BBQ in honour of their celebration and success in our community

•The summer months were extremely busy operating the Visitor/Business Centre; once again we employed local students from May through to the first week of September. Even though we did not receive federal funding through the Canada Summer Jobs program, the Chamber still hired two local youths to ensure coverage at the Centre was to the maximum. This past year we recorded the most visitors ever of 22,025 and 16,865 of those guests came through the doors during the months of May-September. Although the “secret visitor” quality service reports are no longer being conducted since 2008, at which time we received a score of 98% ranking us number one on Vancouver Island for providing exceptional customer service to the visitors, we still feel that this Visitor Centre holds the rank of being number one and Cowichan Lake is the vacation capital of the Cowichan Valley and the Fishing Capital of Canada. The Ministry of Tourism BC now has comment cards that visitors can fill out and mail in; we have them available at our Visitor Centre. Ten comment cards were sent to Tourism BC on our Visitor Centre and we received top scores of 100% from all ten. We are a gateway to Port Renfrew, Nitinat, the Carmanah/Wallbran, Bamfield. The connection to the west coast is now considered to be the most sought after destination on Vancouver Island worth seeking out and it has been proven by the numbers that came into the Centre seeking information on the area during their stay or drive through. In 2010 our total Visitors into our Visitor Centre was 20,507, with 8245 seeking information on the Circle Route. Our numbers for 2011 total Visitor 22,025 and 8433 have come to us seeking information on the Circle Route.  Since 2008 we have noticed a big increase in visitors looking to get to our Natural Surroundings that are along on the Pacific Marine Circle Route, and since the completion of paving the road in 2009 it has become an easier access to those sought after natural attractions. Our chamber, mayor and councillors have attended meetings with other chambers and townships on the Circle Route to work on ideas to promote the area. It was during our 2011 AGM that the staff put together a power point presentation that helped spike more interest in promoting our areas in video. The mayor and council took that power point and brought it to the Annual Coastal Communities Conference in April. It was a success and it lead to Don Barrie of Tourism Cowichan leading the way of hosting and conducting future meetings as well as taking the groups out on the PMCR to experience what our visitors are looking for and find so attractive.

•The Visitor Centre is also a recognized site of Industry Canada’s Community Access Program for internet access and computer services.

•In November we paid our respects to the Veterans on Remembrance Day, and we assisted with the poppy sales by selling poppies at the Visitor Centre.

•The first weekend of December saw us once again organizing December Madness.

The purpose of this weekend is to promote our businesses and have the community shop locally; and the second year of the 7 Days of Christmas Shopping Passport proved to be a success.

Santa again was picked up by the volunteer fire departments in all four communities and driven through the streets in those communities wishing all a very Merry Christmas. Santa handed out some previously loved toys that were gathered by the staff of the Visitor Centre through the Recycle Santa Gift Program. This is the program’s third year and it is becoming a huge success with children as Santa gives a story with each toy given. Santa returned to the Country Grocer on Saturday where the Lady of the Lake Royalty helped out with pictures and treats and more toys.

For the fifth year, the day was also augmented by having the Dry Grad volunteers cook hotdogs, and make coffee and hot chocolate during Santa’s visit.

•The Town Light up Committee and volunteers decorated the outside of the Visitor Centre and our Directors and staff attended meetings and volunteered their time to help with the light up of the town.

The Lake Cowichan Secondary School and middle school students came and decorated the inside of the Visitor Centre. For the third year our staff again dressed as Mrs. Claus where the elementary and preschool children were entertained with stories and they enjoyed the musical sounds of guitar and songs by Beverley McKeen. Refreshments of cookies, juice, oranges, and candy canes along with coloring sheets were provided by the Chamber and the Country Grocer. The Program & Events Committee team did a fantastic job in creating a wonderful Christmas holiday event.

•On Dec. 10 we hosted our annual Small Business Christmas Dinner at the Curling Lounge. We included our usual silent auction and asked those attending to donate a non-perishable food item or unwrapped gift for the Community Services Christmas Hampers. Geoff Dunn of Due West Entertainment was the DJ for the evening.

•Throughout the year we held four monthly dinner meetings as well as two Business After Business Mixers and a public forum. The general dinner meetings are where we brought in guest speakers who provided interesting and valuable information to our membership.

•During the past year we continued our sponsorship of the Cowichan Lake Lady of the Lake Society. The travel of the Lady of the Lake Royalty and Friendship Ambassadors throughout the province and Pacific Northwest of the United States continues to garner needed exposure and recognition of the Cowichan Lake area as an exceptional tourist destination.

•The directors and staff worked hard on some projects such as the completion of the Mesachie Lake Kiosk, this is a great complement to the one in Saywell Park and now with double the exposure, the Information Kiosks will benefit the communities, the businesses and the visitors. The completion of our local area post cards, where the staff and the summer students were out in the communities taking snap shots and some out our local residents also forwarded wonderful pictures as well. This is a great opportunity to showcase our area as visitors purchase the cards and send them home to family friends, enticing them to experience where they have come to play.

•Throughout the year the Chamber operates the Visitor/Business Centre and provides tourist information services and maps, back road map books, trail books, faxing/copying/scanning, internet, postcards of the local area, and so much more.

The Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce recognizes businesses as the leaders in action in the community, they also need the continued support from our community residents and from our local governments in order for us to continue to grow and prosper. We are after all here for but one reason and that is to promote all of you and by working together into the future, we can most certainly continue to ensure that Cowichan Lake is the best place to live, work and play and shop local.

This is the time of year that your Chamber campaigns for membership renewal and new members. Joining your Chamber of Commerce links you with fellow businesses and provides numerous benefits associated with the District and Provincial Chambers of Commerce. As well as:

•Regular networking and meetings with Members

•Guest Speakers and Educational Opportunities

•Listing on Chamber Website

•Promotion of your Business via the Visitor/Business Centre

•Listing on the Visitor/Business Centre Kiosks in Saywell Park and Mesachie Lake and on the big TV screen

•Affiliation to the BC Chamber of Commerce

As the Voice of Business locally and provincially we can air your views and concerns with a strong group message. Join your local Chamber. Become involved with a Chamber that works with you and for you.

Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce “In Business for Business.”