Twelve months after forming, the Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce has come a long way in a relatively short period of time and now has 210 members and counting.
The business advocacy group highlighted its achievements and outlined its goals for 2018 during its one-year anniversary update meeting held at artsPlace theatre, Wednesday (Jan. 10).
Over the next 12 months the regional chamber hopes to increase its membership to 350 members, with a particular focus on attracting businesses outside of Canmore through its “I belong campaign.”
“Moving forward into year two, the two huge factors for success are going to be membership retention, making sure that our 210 members that we presently have continue to be members, and I think there’s a tremendous opportunity for the membership to grow to at least that level by the end of the year,” said Brian McClure, president of the board.
Currently, 90 per cent of its members are located in Canmore, which is not particularly surprising given that it formed after the demise of Canmore Business and Tourism in 2016.
“Seventy-three per cent of our membership is small businesses in the one to 10 employee bracket, which is really the bracket of businesses that the founding members and founding board actually envisioned would be our target group,” said McClure.
In 2018 the chamber, which represents businesses from Lake Louise to the western borders of Cochrane, hopes to attract members from across it’s entire jurisdiction and has already managed to pull in six businesses from Calgary who do business in the Bow Valley.
“Our fee structure is so much lower than Calgary’s. We’re starting to see people joining us and giving up their membership in Calgary so that they still have a chamber membership,” said McClure.
Currently, it costs $125 to $825 per year to join the chamber depending on the number of employees a business has. There is also a $25 one-time enrollment fee.
Through it’s membership fees the chamber generated approximately $33,000 in revenue last year, representing just under 50 per cent of its total income of $73,435.
On the flip side, the chamber spent approximately $25,000 on programs representing about a third of its total expenses of $72,215. Tallied up, the chamber ended the year near even with a net operating income of just over $1,200.
“We actually lost money on a number of our early programs because people were just not coming out. It wasn’t until we kind of established a level of credibility and took on a few new programs that it started to adjust itself,” said McClure, adding in-kind donations accounted for about $22,000 in savings.
Among its most successful programs this year was the launch of Innovate Canmore, which received $25,000 from the Town of Canmore in the fall to pay for a feasibility study to establish a 4,000 square foot tech research and development facility in the Shops of Canmore, a new multi-commercial development slated for the corner of Bow Valley Trail and Benchlands Trail.
McClure said they hope to move into their new place by the end of December 2018, adding Innovate Canmore became a federal non-profit organization in December.
The chamber also has plans to support the 2018 Health and Wellness Festival slated for mid-October.
Among some of its other highlights, the chamber held its first Bow Valley Business Excellence Awards in October, which saw more than 150 people attend and nine businesses recognized with awards.
The chamber also held five conversation cafes covering topics such as taxes on small businesses and municipal politics, as well as learning events about topics such as cannabis legalization and the Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta. The chamber also focused its advocacy work on five main topics this year, including changes to the federal corporate income tax, the provincial carbon tax, new labour laws, minimum wage and the legalization of marijuana.
The chamber will hold its first annual general meeting on Jan. 31 at the Canmore Seniors Centre. The meeting will run from 5-7 p.m. where a new board will be elected.