Chamber of Commerce reports deficit for 2011 

President reports to council on Chamber's strategic direction for 2012-2016

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The Whistler Chamber of Commerce has not been immune to the world's economic downturn, reporting an operating deficit for 2011.

Numbers have yet to be finalized but the deficit could be as much as $130,000. That's would 16 per cent of the chamber's annual operating budget of $800,000.

"We are actively managing the situation," Chamber President Fiona Famulak told council at Tuesday's Committee of the Whole meeting.

She explained that there was a variety of reasons for the deficit — terminated contracts for boardroom and office space, reduced sponsorships, lower than anticipated numbers in its various programs and general start-up costs for hosting the inaugural Outlook Economic Symposium.

"We're not immune to financial challenge and it hit in 2011," said Famulak.

Councillor Jayson Faulkner asked if the Chamber had considered raising membership fees from its 750 members. Those fees are part of the Chamber's core revenues making up 80 per cent of its roughly $800,000 annual operating budget. They have not been raised in seven years.

Famulak explained that they are looking at ways to address the deficit, and changing membership fees is an option.

In addition to core revenues, the chamber has also received fee-for-service monies from the municipality in the past.

The president was before council Tuesday outlining the chamber's strategic direction for 2012 through to 2016.

It has asked council for a three-year fee-for-service commitment totaling more than $569,000. That money will go towards delivering and improving upon the Whistler Service Strategy and to the new Economic Enhancement Strategy.

Among other things, the economic strategy is set up to deliver the monthly Whistler Report Card — a month-to-month snapshot of the economic engine of Whistler, including statistics from the accommodation sector, food and beverage, real estate and construction.

Councillor Jack Crompton asked how the report card would be different to the reporting done by Tourism Whistler and the Whistler Centre for Sustainability.

"We're not duplicating anything that anyone's doing," explained Famulak, adding that the report card would be a central collection point for the statistics — something that's not being done in the resort to date.

Council has yet to make a decision on the fee-for-service requests for 2012. It is expected to make that decision at the next council meeting on Tuesday, April 3.

Whistler open for business

In her Mayor's Report this week Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said interest in Whistler from potential investors is growing.

On Tuesday she met with a delegation of 10 businessmen from China.

One of the key things she took away from that meeting is that the municipality and its partners need to have Mandarin on relevant websites. Whistler also needs to develop Mandarin signage and maps.

China has long been pegged as an emerging key market for the resort.

The Chinese are going to be visiting us, said the mayor. "There's just no doubt about it," she said.

The mayor also met with a German businessman this month looking at investing in the resort. "The interest in conducting business in Whistler is growing," said Wilhelm-Morden.

Being 'Open For Business' is a key focus of this council as outlined in one of the five priorities in the Council Action Plan.

The key deliverables in the next six months under that priority area are:

• Revise the pay parking program in the Day Lots,

• Work towards improving liquor licenses (see related story on page 20),

• Advance the post secondary education initiative, and

• Explore the feasibility and costs of free village wi-fi access.

The more long-term priorities in this area are to pursue an economic development strategy in the next 12 months, support the advancement of the Spearhead Hut initiative and expand sport tourism in Whistler.

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