BY DUCK PATERSON
Stepping into the shoes as the executive director of the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce won’t be a huge change for Roberta Bowman.
She will be bringing 15 years of chamber experience to Ladysmith at a time when there is great potential for the town’s business community, she said. Her most recent position was with the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce as the director of operations. Before Nanaimo, she headed chambers in Prince Rupert and West Vancouver and was the events manager for the Surrey Board of Trade.
“My goals are to continue moving the chamber forward,” Bowman said. “I feel with my extensive experience in the organization and an amazing board to support me, we will be able to raise the profile of the chamber.”
She was asked about negotiations with the Island Corridor Foundation regarding the local chamber and tourism infocentre facility moving into the old E&N Railway station across the highway. She said initial negotiations were underway long before she started with the chamber, but she has been “well-informed” about the initiative and will play a role if it moves forward.
“Firstly, the concept of us moving to the train station is currently still just that, a concept,” she said. “We have done our due diligence to see if it is even viable.”
Bowman did add that the potential new location is a “great idea” that would incorporate Ladysmith’s sense of history and community pride in that history.
“Everywhere you go references the history of Ladysmith [and] moving into the train station would resonate with this,” she said.
Asked about the fit of having the chamber office across the highway, she responded that the location would still be “a quick walk” up or down the street.
“Our focus won’t change, in fact I feel that it will be better, as we have had very early discussions of including a business centre for professionals to use if they need a temporary office location to use, something which we don’t currently have to offer,” she said.
Bowman said she can’t answer questions about the work that would be involved to make the train station suitable for chamber business, adding that the efforts so far have involved due diligence to see if it is a viable initiative, and a “substantial” grant submission.
“Everything comes down to the success of the grant which we won’t know about until next spring. Right now, all we can do is be hopeful that we are successful in getting the grant, then we can start talking about next steps to the train station initiative.”
Bowman said she doesn’t necessarily come into her new position with notions that the chamber needs improvements. She said the previous executive director, Millie Stirling, did an “amazing job,” and so she wants to keep things moving in that direction.
“It’s not about improving, it’s about advocating for the local businesses and raising the profile of the chamber and what it has to offer the business community,” Bowman said.
She and her husband are familiar with Ladysmith, having lived on the Island since 2020 after many years of visiting for boating and to see family.
“It was just a matter of time before we decided to make the permanent move,” she said.