President Paul Wiest (left) and executive director Tom Thomson at the 2022 annual general meeting of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Submitted

President Paul Wiest (left) and executive director Tom Thomson at the 2022 annual general meeting of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Submitted

Nelson Chamber of Commerce elects new board

Annual general meeting was held on March 31

by Tom Thomson

The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce will see two new directors join the board following last week’s Annual General Meeting.

The AGM on March 31 was held in person, following two years of virtual meetings due to COVID-19.

Sixty-plus business people and local government reps were on hand at the Adventure Hotel as the chamber re-elected four directors, and added two new directors to round out the 2022-2023 board.

COVID-19 business recovery still played a prominent role in the evening proceedings as president Paul Wiest and I each provided a summary of some of the struggles many businesses faced and the prominent role the chamber played in working with all levels of government to provide some assistance to the struggling sectors.

Wiest told the crowd that, “We are now two years into the pandemic in our region, and though COVID-19 continues to weigh heavily both personally and professionally, there is a great deal to celebrate.”

The precautions taken in our province and country to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have brought unprecedented challenges to employers in Nelson and area. Be assured, your chamber has been working tirelessly on your behalf and has been striving to share vital information, provide access to assistance programs, and continue our support of the business community during this time.

Working collaboratively with our chamber network at the B.C, and Canadian level, we succeeded in shaping the government policies that would prevent countless livelihoods from being lost and businesses stay afloat. Wiest cited tenacious business recovery efforts by all staff and new business recovery advisor Darren Davidson: poster campaigns, enhanced Think Local First marketing efforts, relaxed downtown patio bylaws, a downtown graffiti removal program and continual advocacy.

Nelson and area businesses continue to exhibit extraordinary resilience, and thanks to all the business community efforts, we can cautiously begin to peer beyond COVID-19 and look to the future. But more work is left to do. With new COVID-19 restrictions we will continue to work with senior governments to provide ongoing relief to struggling sectors.

Launched by the Economic Development Trust of the Southern Interior, the Chamber’s Economic Recovery Advisor position began in June of 2021.

Locally, the business recover advisor program developed collateral materials that connected small business with pandemic recovery grants and funds through all levels of government and agencies. It has assisted hundreds of local business owners and raised awareness on public health orders and their implications on small business, including masking and vaccines mandates, as well as educating the business community on the importance of disaster/wildfire continuity planning.

The chamber is currently hosting sector consultations with our economic development partners, focusing on food/beverage/hospitality, retail. Construction, builders, developers are scheduled later this month. Issues all are concerned with include inflation and rising costs – fuel, insurance, difficulty in hiring and retaining staff, housing challenges, five-day sick pay legislation and increased minimum wage, on-going supply chain disruptions, slumping tourism numbers, and the upcoming fire season.

Here is a full list of the new Chamber of Commerce board and executive:

President: Paul Wiest, Cornerstone Group of Management Consultants

Vice President: Karen Bennett, Bennett Family Real Estate

Past President: Tanya Finley, Finley’s Bar and Grill/Sage Tapas

Secretary: Ed Olthof, Pacific West Builders

The directors are Michael Borch of Baker Street Men’s Wear, Paul Cowan of Cowan Office Supplies, Chris Drysdale of Cloudside Hotel, Bob Hall of Selkirk College, Stephen Harris of Stephen Harris Communications, Rob Little of Adventure Hotel (new board member), Rebeckah Hornung of Whitewater Resort, Roger Quayle of CIBC (new board member), and Amanda Verigin of Kootenay Co-op.

The Chamber is continuing with our Think Local First marketing campaign, planning Canada Day, music events, the annual gala dinner, some downtown beautification, plus ongoing business recovery and launching our new business climate advisor.

Tom Thomson is the executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce