Agreement between Town of Ladysmith and Chamber of Commerce adds even more business focus

This year's agreement includes starting the process of providing a business centre to support new businesses in Ladysmith.

This year’s agreement between the Town of Ladysmith and the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce is adding some additional business focus to the chamber’s work in town.

The Agreement Between the Town of Ladysmith and Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce for Visitor and Business Services in 2013 was approved unanimously by council Jan. 21.

The agreement states that the chamber shall, during all businesses hours, including weekends as appropriate, operate and maintain a Visitor Information Centre.

As well, during the year-long term of the contract, the chamber shall operate and maintain information and support services for local businesses. This includes:

• hosting speakers at monthly meetings that will support small business capacity building in Ladysmith

• working toward (starting the process in 2013) providing a business centre to support new businesses in Ladysmith and providing the town with an outline of the services to be provided

• working collaboratively with the Town and the Ladysmith Downtown Business Association (LDBA) to support existing and new businesses in Ladysmith

• liaising with the Town during filming to manage communications with the local business community

• assisting, as and when requested, with the collection of business licenses in Ladysmith

• co-ordinating workshops to support local business in Ladysmith

In consideration for the chamber supplying these services, the Town will pay to the chamber an annual sum of $35,000, plus applicable taxes. As well, the Town agrees to pay $700 (plus applicable taxes) toward the monthly lease payments for the premises occupied by the Visitor Information Centre.

The $35,000 a year is the service contract, and the $700 a month to go toward the lease payments is not new money from the Town, explained city manager Ruth Malli.

“The main service is the Visitor Information Centre, and the source of funding for that is the business licenses,” she said.

The contract between the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Ladysmith is reviewed every year to make sure it is meeting the needs of the community at this time, and the contract is renewed annually, explained Malli.

“The needs might change per year, but the primary service of the contract each year is the Visitor Information Centre,” she said.

During the meeting where council approved the new agreement, chamber president Rob Waters presented highlights from the past year and spoke about the chamber’s plans for the coming year. Waters says the Visitor Information Centre was busy in 2012.

“Our parties per hour were up 18.3 per cent, and our total visitors at the Visitor Information Centre were up 12.2 per cent to a total of just under 10,000 visitors in the door this year,” he said. “We hope to continue the growth in visitors to Ladysmith in 2013. The chamber is very thankful for the financial support from the Town, and it would be virtually impossible to provide the level of service without the dollars from the Town.”

In speaking about the new agreement with the Town that includes the operation and maintenance of support services for local businesses, Waters told council that, “2013 will be a challenging and busy year for our chamber, and the chamber board is pleased to rise to the challenge outlined in the new agreement. Some directors had some concerns about capacity, but we’ve all committed to forge ahead in the spirit of co-operation.”

Waters says everything that was in the previous agreement to run the Visitor Information Centre is still in there, and there are a few additional items, which are business-focused.

“The chamber certainly, over the last couple of yeas, has been talking about getting more involved in a business focus,” he said. “We approached the Town about two years ago about wanting to be partners with a business focus. I’ve talked to a gentleman in the community who has experience setting up business centres in the past, and he’s agreed to take that on.”

Waters says he will be introducing this man at this week’s chamber board meeting.

“We’re in the very early stages of researching what we could include in a business centre,” he said. “I’m quite excited to hear more about his ideas.”

Coun. Steve Arnett told Waters he has appreciated the initiative on behalf of the chamber to work with the Town, the LDBA and the Stz’uminus First Nation around economic development.

Coun. Jill Dashwood also had positive words to share about the joint economic development meetings.

“The spirit of co-operation between the LDBA, the chamber and the Town and Stz’uminus First Nation, it gives us all that feeling of hope and working together and that there are solutions out there,” she said. “It’s great to listen to each other.”