Tofinoâ€™s business community packed into Jamieâ€™s Rainforest Inn on March 27 for the Tofino-Long Beach chamber of commerce annual general meeting.
The chamber is coming off a successful 2013 in which it was named the runner up for BCâ€™s chamber of the year, a significant coup for the small organization.
â€œThe Tofino Long Beach Chamber of Commerce is an inspiring example of a small Chamber punching above its weight and helping to tangibly lead its community forward,â€ said BC chamber of commerce president and CEO John Winter.
Mayor Josie Osborne was the eventâ€™s keynote speaker and gave high accolades to her business-representing audience.
â€œItâ€™s because of you we have such an incredible and vibrant local economy,â€ she said.
Osborne said Tofino boasts about 425 business licenses in a community where only about 1,600 people over the age of 19 are living.
â€œThat means about one in four adults who live in Tofino owns a business; thatâ€™s pretty incredible,â€ she said.
The chamber expects to spend about $152,700 in 2014 with the lionâ€™s share of this coming from about $98,000 worth of membership revenue.
Membership rates were raised by $25 this yearÂ ($5 for non-profit organizations) and the chamberâ€™s sole full-time employee executive director Gord Johns said this increase was needed to keep the level of services intact.
â€œIt was a very difficult decision by our board but to continue to deliver the service that weâ€™re delivering and with the size of the membership they felt it was an adequate time to do so,â€ he said adding the chamber had not increased fees in five years.
The bulk of the chamberâ€™s spending will be $85,000 for employee wages and benefitsâ€”for one full-time and one part-time employeeâ€”and $24,000 to the Raincoast Education Society (RES), which helps deliver the chamberâ€™s Ambassador Program.
Johns touted the success of the Ambassador Program and said the province is working on modeling the program in BCâ€™s other resort municipalities.
He said the chamberâ€™s partnership with the RES has allowed the program to expand and diversify.
Everyone who takes the free program receives an Ambassadors Card that is attached to special offers from local businesses and Johns said the chamber will lobby hard for local businesses to offer benefits to cardholders.
â€œWeâ€™re going to really push a buy local campaign this year and itâ€™s going to be intricately connected to that Tofino ambassador card,â€ he said.
He said the chamberâ€™s roughly 330 members is impressive and on par with larger communities like Duncanâ€™s chamber which as about 350 members and Parksvilleâ€™s at around 450 members.
He said the chamberâ€™s membership is so high because it invests in people and builds relationships between people and place.
â€œOur town is made up of small business,â€ Johns said. â€œBusiness is about relationships and we know relationships are about people.â€
Memberships services include networking opportunities through a variety of events including six sponsored luncheons, nine Green Breakfast Meetings, five Mayorâ€™s breakfasts, and five sponsored workshops.
â€œWe have incredible sponsors, we have people that get it, they really want to support the business community they buy lunch to bring people together,â€ Johns said. â€œWe had a lot of really prominent people from throughout British Columbia, leaders in the community, leaders in the region, and people that brought information and ways to network in our communities.â€
He said connecting people community and business is the best form of economic development.
â€œIf you donâ€™t know each other you donâ€™t trust each other and if you donâ€™t trust each other youâ€™re not going to do business with each other,â€ he said.
He spoke to the chamber’s push for higher learning on the West Coast and â€œpositioning Tofino as a higher learning destination."
He said the chamber will continue to be a strong advocate for social issues like preserving the natural environment of Clayoquot Sound.
The chamber received much attention in December for its voiced opposition to the Northern Gateway Pipeline project.
â€œI donâ€™t think we expected to even come close to being the voice that weâ€™ve become around that lobby,â€ Johns said.