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Ryan sees challenges for chamber members

Shane Bourbonnais promoted, moving to the UK

The Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce has anointed the community's top citizen and business, as well as a new board after its annual general meeting on Jan. 29.

Sandy Ryan, who served as vice-president in the last term, was elected president in an unopposed vote. The position of vice-president is now empty after no one ran for the job.

Ryan, a co-owner of Whistler Welding Services Ltd., has been with the chamber for 12 years as both a director and vice-president and now looks forward to the challenge of holding the reins.

He said in an interview with Pique that the biggest issue facing the chamber is the same facing any organization - the world economy, and all its recessionary baggage.

"I think the biggest issue which is, I think, evident to all of us, is the present world economics and trying to keep everybody gainfully employed within our communities," he said.

"The Pemberton Chamber is out of the box thinkers. I think with the introduction of the Pemberton Festival and some economic drivers like the GEMS school and getting our airport going are all big potential economic engines for our community."

The chamber's central role in keeping the economy running, Ryan said, will be working with local and provincial governments to ensure opportunities such as the GEMS school and the airport are realized.

"Just trying to get everybody working together to get their goals to fruition so as a community we can reap all the benefits such as jobs and tax dollars and so on," he said.

Educating the community about the economic crisis will be important, according to Ryan; he said it hasn't yet hit the Sea to Sky corridor as hard as it could.

"It is just really starting to affect us," he said. "I think that 2010 has still kept everybody pretty gainfully employed. I think our whole corridor hasn't felt it quite yet, but from a tourism point of view it has.

"I think the worst is yet to come. I don't think we've quite hit bottom yet, people need to button down their hatches and start thinking out of the box and conservative attitudes may come into play."

Newly-elected directors at the Chamber of Commerce include Village councillor Lisa Ames, GEMS proponent Cam McIvor, Economic Development Coordinator Alexandra Ross and former councillor and Pemberton Valley Supermarket owner Mark Blundell.

Shirley Henry will remain secretary/treasurer and appointed directors will be John Beks from Pemberton Seed Potato Growers and Greg Bikadi from the Lil'wat Business Corporation.

The Business of the Year Award went to Shane Bourbonnais and Live Nation Canada for their role in putting on the Pemberton Music Festival, an event that brought approximately 40,000 people to the Spud Valley last summer to see bands such as Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails and Tom Petty.

Bourbonnais's nomination form stressed his "contribution to business and the economy of Pemberton. Those contributions, the nomination reads, "cannot be measured," nor can the "name recognition and community pride" that will benefit Pemberton for "years to come."

Whether the festival itself visits Pemberton in years to come is another matter entirely.

The festival is on hiatus for 2009 after the Agricultural Land Commission granted a 10-year permit to Live Nation to use the site next to the Pemberton Hillside in November, leaving well under a year to plan the festival. Live Nation has since decided to focus its efforts on a 2010 festival.

Bourbonnais, however, has been promoted within Live Nation, to president of Talent, Live Music International. In this capacity, he'll be working out of London, England to coordinate purchases of international talent and establish "buying efficiencies" over the company's international platform, according to a report on FYI Music News.

Bourbonnais couldn't be reached for comment, but Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy stressed that the job is only a temporary one to fill the void between now and when planning starts on the 2010 Festival.

"I understand this is a temporary position for Shane, just to make use of him for the next year kind of thing, but we're still on track," he said. "I don't think it was necessary for him to actually be physically at the location of the festival in order to organize the festival."

The Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce also presented its Citizen of the Year Award to Arlene McClean, recognizing her volunteer work and fundraising for events such as the Pemberton Barn Dance, the Pemberton Festival, Pemberton Dragon Boat and Pemberton Secondary School Grad and Prom.

"I'm very honoured, I'm sure everyone would tell you the same," McClean said. "I've been living here for 17 years, it was a lot of volunteering and a lot of involvement and it's just nice to be recognized."

McClean first came to Pemberton after her parents purchased the Hitching Post Motel in Mount Currie. She had been living with her family in Ontario and moved out to run it for her parents after they got into a car accident.

Today, she's a building clerk at the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and has been involved in Pemberton "anywhere my kids are involved."

When asked why she got the award, McClean said, "I think because a lot of people in this town know me. Sometimes it's name-recognition, a lot of times when I'm at a fundraiser, people say, of course we expected you there."