Education, lobbying, partnerships touted at luncheon

A packed house savoured the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce’s first luncheon of 2014.

Community Futures Alberni Clayoquot sponsored the event.

“It’s exciting for us to host these lunches and they really are an incredible form of economic development… and a really important networking

feature for all of you so make sure you get to know each other,” said chamber executive director Gord Johns.

Johns highlighted upcoming educational opportunities, including the ambassador program, West Coast Ecology, and a new advanced program on Nuuchah-nulth culture that will be taught by Gisele Martin.

“It’s going to be a phenomenal year this year,” Johns said.

He touted the Force of Nature ambassador program as an enormous success and said about 450 people have taken the chamber’s ambassador program in the past three years.

“It’s so exciting for us to share that with other communities that the province of BC just hired a contractor to do a feasibility study about taking our program and putting it in all 13 resort municipalities,” he said.

He said the chamber will be pushing a ‘buy local’ campaign this year and cited the chamber’s lobbying efforts.

“We’ve been hitting pretty hard on Enbridge…we’re making sure that our voice is heard and we don’t want that project to continue and move forward at all,” he said.

The chamber has also voiced strong opposition towards the Kinder Morgan pipeline and has submitted an application to be an intervener in the project, according to Johns, who noted the chamber has also joined the Tla-o-quiaht First Nation in opposition against mining activity in Clayoquot Sound.

The chamber’s AGM will be held on March 27.

Tourism Tofino partners with Port Alberni Kirsten Soder of Tourism Tofino said 2013 was the biggest revenue year since 2007. “I like to attribute that to the fact that everybody is really doing their part to make Tofino shine on the world’s stage,” she said.

She said Tourism Tofino has partnered with the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce and will install a custom surfboard with a large TV mounted on it that cycles through promotional Tofino programming at the Alberni Valley visitors centre.

“We had a great year and it allowed us to spend a little bit more on marketing and we’re seeing really direct results from that so we’re now focusing on how we can keep new revenue opportunities on the horizon, so that we’re able to keep those spending levels where they’re at,” she said.

Mayor: Inching toward a solution on high speed Internet Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne encouraged local businesses to participate in this year’s Pacific Rim Whale Festival parade.

“It’s a great way for community organizations to promote themselves,” she said.

Osborne spoke to the district’s efforts to promote economic development in Tofino and said has been thrilled to see the recently struck Community Economic Development Advisory Committee taking shape.

“It’s one of the achievements of this council that I’m really proud of,” she said. “We put economic development for this community as one of our priorities in our strategic plan and we’re starting to deliver on that.”

She cautioned about the construction zone arriving later this month as the next phase of Tofino’s Campbell Street upgrade gets underway immediately following the Whale Festival.

“I’m asking for the com- munity’s patience; it’s a short term pain for long term gain,” she said.

She said the district’s budget discussions are set for takeoff and encouraged locals to get involved and to attend a budget presentation on March 24.

“It’s your money and I want you to care about how we spend it which means we want feedback from you,” she said.

Osborne also mentioned the West Coast’s stalled fibre optic project.

“You know that we are working really hard to lobby government and Telus and Hydro to connect Port Alberni and the West Coast with a fibre optic cable so that we can get real high-speed Internet,” she said. “There’s a small group of us that have been working really hard but we haven’t been saying a lot in public because we haven’t made a ton of progress. We’re inching towards a solution.”

She said West Coast leaders are making progress and she is hopeful she will have more information to provide locals about what’s happening with the project within the month.

The event’s guest speakers were Island Coast Economic Trust CEO Line Robert and Simon Fraser University community economic development director Nicole Chaland.