Squamish Chamber takes the lead on economic development 

Chamber asking businesses to fill in questionnaire

The Squamish Chamber of Commerce wants to hear your thoughts on economic development.

By answering the questionnaire put out by the chamber, you can help it move towards framing a concrete economic development strategy for Squamish.

The ten-page questionnaire begins by gathering basic information from local businesses on a range of questions from the effects of recession to specific challenges faced by the business community. It also asks about current business conditions and roadblocks to setting up new business.

It also squarely asks about the most pressing issue facing Squamish: economic development. Creating jobs, courting new industry, and creating a salubrious environment for businesses old and new come under the gambit of the term economic development in the questionnaire.

The Chamber is looking for specific information.

For example, it asks: Who would be most appropriate to lead the development of an effective economic development program for Squamish? Do you feel the district should be responsible for funding an "effective" economic development program?

The questionnaire also calls for testimonials, asking businesses to describe any good, bad or difficult experiences they have had while dealing with the Chamber or the district.

The answers will be the template upon which to form a long term economic development strategy, said John Jervis, the chair of the Chamber's economic development committee.

"We want to reach out to the community and we want to know what the town has to say on economic development," Jervis said.

Once the questions are answered, the Chamber will develop an advocacy committee of business leaders, citizens and experts who will give shape to the strategy, he said.

"We want to assemble a highly expert group of people who are unbiased," said Jervis.

"We want to invite Squamish Nation members, we want to invite people from knowledge-based industry, and if a citizen has an expertise and a passion to help the community, we are not going to say no."

Jervis added the Chamber considers the District of Squamish one of the stakeholders and would be happy to share the strategy with them.

The town has not seen a comprehensive economic development strategy in the past few years. Although council has worked on some important issues facing the community, it missed out on prioritizing economic development, Jervis said.

"We hope to have an initiative that sets achievable goals and can be monitored over time," he said.

"We are a volunteer group and we don't want to waste time and money."

Maurice Freitag, Squamish Chamber of Commerce president, said the strength of the Chamber committee would be its diversity, something he found lacking in the district's economic development committee.

"It wasn't inclusive by any stretch of imagination," said Freitag.

"There was no one from the chamber, there was no one from Squamish Nation, there was no one from BC Rail, or any other key major economic players in town," Freitag said.

He is confident the Chamber's committee would be "very inclusive" and bring a "broad spectrum of people" to the table.

Eric Andersen, who represents Squamish CAN on the Chamber's economic development committee, said the district should have involved citizens when creating its new economic development strategy rather than depending on "inexperienced" consultants.

In lumping together different sectors on timing and policy, the district has taken a "cookie-cutter" approach in its latest plan for economic development, he said.

The chamber, he added, has a long history of providing a leadership role in economic development and would continue to do so.

"I think the chamber's role needs to be recognized anew," said Anderson.

Jervis has requested business owners and concerned citizens fill out the questionnaire as soon as possible. Printed copies are also available at the chamber office in the Adventure Centre.



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