Executive director Sonja Nagel, left, embraces outgoing president Julie Scurr at the Duncan Cowichan Chamber’s AGM. For more from the event, see page 19. (Warren Goulding/Citizen)

Chamber trending upward as membership list grows

“The relevancy of the Chamber has never been greater than in these times of change”

The Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce has recorded another year of growth and accomplishment.

President Julie Scurr, who will be stepping down after more than four years in that role, told the 65 attendees at the Chamber’s annual general meeting that the organization has lived up to its goal of connecting, achieving and growing.

“It has been another fantastic year for us, another year of record growth in membership, another year of providing unique networking and learning opportunities for members, and yet another year where your Chamber has proven again that we are the Voice of Business in the Cowichan Valley,” Scurr said.

“We know what’s on Cowichan’s mind.”

Memberships now sit at 561, a gain of 35 in the last year.

“Over the years that I have been involved in the Chamber, we have seen a phenomenal increase in our membership, from 260 members in 2011 to our current membership count of 561,” Scurr said.

“We reached and surpassed our goal of 550 members,” executive director Sonja Nagel added. “As Julie noted, we now boast 561 members. We had another successful May Membership Month with over 30 members joining in May alone.”

Scurr and Nagel pointed to other areas where the Chamber has been successful.

“[There has been] a huge increase in the number of events we hold, ensuring that we offer content that will interest every member,” Scurr said.

“New programs like Dine Cowichan were a huge success. I’m looking forward to our third year this February, and of course the Black Tie Awards, moving to a biennial event, and growing so big we had to move the venue to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend, and still fully selling out.”

Nagel said the Chamber organized more than 50 events in the last year ranging from networking opportunities to professional development events to business showcases.

Scurr says she is particularly proud of the way the Duncan Cowichan Chamber has embraced its vital role as a voice of business.

“The relevancy of the Chamber has never been greater than in these times of change, changes in governments, changes in trading partners, changes in the day to day issues, housing crisis, homelessness, opioid epidemic, rising taxes, new fees, certainty, uncertainty. It can be confusing to be in business,” Scurr said.

Under Scurr’s leadership, the Chamber has spoken up on a number of issues this year.

“Our advocacy efforts this year were extensive,” Scurr suggested. “In the middle of the annual Black Friday blitz, we encouraged shopping local to support our local merchants, speaking about how many times the money turns over when spent locally.

“We voiced our protest over the short-lived ban by Alberta on B.C. wines in protest to the Kinder Morgan delays. We wrote letters and met with our MLA and communicated our members’ concerns regarding the minimum wage increase, the new employers’ health tax, the expansion of the real estate speculation tax and possible redirection of MRDT funds (the accommodation tax) towards housing.

“We continued our support for the rezoning application from Western Stevedoring, protecting the jobs and the business of Pacific Industrial Marine, and recognizing their environmental stewardship efforts in the Cowichan Bay estuary.

“We protested against the mandatory union membership clause for workers, in the recent announcement of the community benefit agreements,” Scurr said, acknowledging the work of the Chamber’s Business Advocacy Committee chaired by director Moira Hauk.

“Our Chamber is a legitimate and effective voice for business interests in our Valley and we are not afraid to tackle issues locally, on the provincial or federal front,” Scurr added.

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