Chamber president Peter Matthews focused on developing partnerships

The Chemainus and District Chamber of Commerce is focusing on building bridges locally, regionally and across Vancouver Island.

Chemainus and District Chamber of Commerce president Peter Matthews speaks during the Chamber’s annual general meeting March 27 at the Crofton Hotel Cafe.

Chemainus and District Chamber of Commerce president Peter Matthews speaks during the Chamber’s annual general meeting March 27 at the Crofton Hotel Cafe.

It’s been a year for building bridges and making connections for the Chemainus and District Chamber of Commerce.

During the Chamber’s annual general meeting March 27 in Crofton, president Peter Matthews said one of his top priorities is working to develop successful partnerships with other organizations, both locally and Island-wide.

“It’s been one of my pet peeves in the community that there are a lot of really worthwhile organizations and we’re not talking to each other very much, so I’ve made it a bit of a mission to do some work with other organizations,” he said.

Locally, the Chamber has been strengthening its ties with the Chemainus Valley Museum,  Festival of Murals Society and Business Improvement Association (BIA).

“I think we’re beyond that ‘little town that did’ to become a bigger town that is doing, and I think we should work on that,” said Matthews.

On a broader scale, the Chamber has been working with the other four Cowichan Chambers — Duncan-Cowichan, Cowichan Lake District, South Cowichan,  and Ladysmith Initially, the purpose of the Five Chambers was to focus on the development of a regional visitors information centre in Duncan, and the funding and the concept have been approved, explained Matthews.

“The municipalities and the CVRD have all been a part of the funding of it,” he said. “It’s about a $2-million touch to get everything we wanted there.

“For that to move forward, it will be incumbent on our Chamber moving probably into calendar year 2013, we are going to be asked to provide one and a half man days a week of staffing for it, and I think that’s very positive for us. They will have an opportunity to talk about Chemainus specifically.  I’m pumped about the whole concept. I think it will be wonderful and will again help to tie the region together.”

And looking even further afield, a number of Vancouver Island Chambers are working to create an entity to represent all Chambers on the Island to address such issues as ferry fares and schedules and the railway, explained Matthews.

“Interestingly, the combined membership of the Vancouver Island Chambers is in excess by about 30 per cent of the Lower Mainland Chambers of Commerce, so from a voice with government, it is felt that will be very helpful for the Vancouver Island Chambers,” he said. “So we’re encouraging that process and will be meeting in the next 12 to 18 months, and we’ll solidify that mission statement to move us forward on that.”

Matthews told Chamber members that the Chemainus and District Chamber of Commerce’s opinion is being sought on many local issues.

One of those issues is the question of where the new library should be located in Chemainus.

The Chemainus Advisory Committee is planning a public workshop April 21 to show and explain the most recent plans and explain the pros and cons of the two preferred locations —  the Waterwheel Park parking lot and the old firehall lot.

After the workshop, the Chamber will distribute a survey to its members asking their preference to ensure that when Matthews is speaking for the Chamber, he is truly representing its members.

“There are all sorts of little bits of positive stuff that are making our Chamber feel quite buoyed about the direction we’re going,” said Matthews. “I’m very encouraged by what is happening with us and the BIA, the Murals Society and the museum and building those relationships, and the relationships with the other Chambers.”