The Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce held a virtual AGM this year due to the health pandemic. Pictured are the chamber’s executive director Sonja Nagel (left) and president Julie Scurr. (File photo)

The Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce held a virtual AGM this year due to the health pandemic. Pictured are the chamber’s executive director Sonja Nagel (left) and president Julie Scurr. (File photo)

Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce holds AGM

Three new members added to the board

Six new and returning directors will be members of the board at the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce after its recent AGM.

Island Savings’ Jason Farrugia, Pemberton Holmes’ Renee Russell and Tammy Gurski, from Valley Carpet One Floor & Home, are the new directors, while Panago Pizza’s Matthew Huortari, KBL Law Corporation’s Karen Bresler, and Pamela Stover, from PD Stover Professional Corporation, are the returning incumbent directors.

All six directors were acclaimed at the meeting, which was hosted virtually on Zoom on Nov. 24

Chamber president Julie Scurr reported at the AGM on how the chamber pivoted during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, providing the local business community with daily updates on financial support programs and resources as they rolled out.

A report from the AGM said the chamber has also continued to be a strong and effective voice on behalf of both business and community interests.

This year, the chamber supported organizations like the Raptors Centre and the Shawnigan Lake Museum, among others, for access to relief funds, the CVRD for funds to increase digital literacy in the arts community, and for Community Futures to target funds for a marketing campaign to support the retail and service sector, and restaurant and tourism businesses.

The chamber’s advocacy efforts remain extensive, including support of a policy on restoring rail on Vancouver Island, support for an accommodation business that was having bylaw issues with the CVRD, and participation in efforts to reduce the federal excise tax impact on distilleries.

The chamber also spoke out loudly for its member businesses against a North Cowichan proposed motion regarding a pause on development in advance of a new OCP.

Scurr reiterated that the chamber is in a unique position as the business community’s leader in Cowichan.

“The focus for the chamber over the next year will be creating a road map to recovery, listening to and advocating for businesses, and leveraging the chamber network to ensure those needs are met,” she said.

Chamber treasurer Leah Hudson presented the financial situation at the AGM, noting how difficult it has been this year with little revenue due to cancelled events and decreased retail sales at the Cowichan Regional Visitor Centre due to the pandemic, as well as a decrease in municipal grant revenue for the visitor centre.

Memberships, however, have remained stable, which Hudson noted is a testament to the value of membership.

She said the chamber is in a positive situation as a result of having access to the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy.

The chamber’s executive director Sonja Nagel spoke to how quickly the Cowichan Regional Visitor Centre adapted with the way they could deliver visitor services over the last eight months, noting that the CRVC was one of the first centres to partially reopen, and remain open, serving locals, islanders and mainlanders.

“The chamber also worked tirelessly for members since March, researching and finding solutions for businesses and organizations to help them during the crisis,” said Nagel.

“The Chamber has welcomed many new members during this pandemic who see the value of belonging to this powerful chamber network.”

Nagel also added that there are tentative plans to host the Black Tie Awards in a live, limited-capacity event in April, 2021.

The biennial Black Tie Awards, postponed earlier this year, celebrates excellence in business and volunteerism in Cowichan.

The most prevalent theme of the chamber’s AGM, perhaps, was the steadfast commitment and call to support local.

“Local businesses are the backbone of the Cowichan Valley. They support our kids’ sports teams, they donate to local charities, they support other local businesses and they are invested in our communities,” said Scurr.

“Now, more than ever, these businesses need your support because our communities are depending on it. We are all in this together.”