Chamber's Fiona Famulak steps down 

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Fiona Famulak, the chief executive officer of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, is ending her job on a high note.

Famulak announced on June 3 that she was leaving the chamber after almost five years to become president and CEO with the Vancouver Regional Construction Association. The post begins in September 2013.

"It was a great career opportunity and I'm a firm believer in taking up the opportunities that life presents," Famulak said, adding that her last day is July 29.

"The Whistler community has been very kind to me and I want to say thank-you to everybody for their willingness to share, to provide feedback when we've asked for it, and their incredible support as we tried new things."

At Tuesday's council meeting Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said in her report: "There's no question that (Famulak) will leave a huge hole.

"She was always ready, willing and more than able to roll up her sleeves.

"She's really spread her influence across the community and she will be missed."

A search committee has already been struck to find Famulak's replacement, with the position to be advertised throughout B.C. and nationally.

"We're casting a wide net in order to find a good replacement," she said.

Reflecting on her time in Whistler, Famulak said the position had been challenging and extremely rewarding.

"Spearheading change in an organization is never easy. I'm very passionate about our organization and about Whistler, and very proud of what we accomplished at the chamber both at the operational and the board level," she said.

Her highlights have been the creation of the chamber's strategic plan, which runs until 2016, improvements to the governance of the board of directors, when they started to engage members through forums like the monthly 12@12 sessions to learn more about businesses at the grassroots, and the development of their policy and advocacy process.

"I said when I took over that the momentum of the Olympic machine would deliver a great Olympic Games, and we did. The challenge was always going to be post-Games and to figure out with our members and partners how to fill the void that the Games left," Famulak said. "The pieces that I'm most proud of are post-Games... the community is going through change as it lays down its economic plan at the EPI committee... Whistler is at a great point and I am proud to say I have been part of that journey."

In May, the chamber secured three policy wins at the BC Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting in Nanaimo, which will be presented at the national chamber level in September. If adopted there, the national chamber will lobby the federal government to make them into national policy.

The first, Improving air access for the benefit of the economy, calls for provincial and federal support and negotiation of open skies policies.

The second, Enhancing working holiday visas is part of the solution for Canada's labour shortage, calls for the federal government to expand the Canadian-Australian bilateral agreement to other countries, including the U.K., Ireland and New Zealand.

The third, Streamlined visa process is required to boost visitation to Canada from emerging economies, calls for the federal government to streamline the visa application and approval process for those travelling from emerging economies such as China and India, in order to boost tourism at a time when demand is increasing from these countries.

Famulak said these three proposals came from the 12@12 meetings, where feedback informed the content of the policies.

"We try to understand what is going on at the grassroots level and those forums are effective because members confirmed that they wanted more guests to come to Whistler," Famulak said. "They also told us they wanted to keep high-quality international employees for more than one year."

The provincial business community was also given the opportunity to "hear Whistler's voice."

"We're an important piece of the provincial economy and they agreed with us on all three fronts. The wins we secured are not only good for Whistler, they are also good for the provincial and national tourism industry," she said.

This is the second year in a row where policies presented by the Whistler Chamber made it to the national chamber level.

— with files from Alison Taylor —

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