Editorial: Tumbler Ridge Chamber finding its footing

It’s Chamber week here again, and you might recall, there is no Chamber of Commerce in Tumbler Ridge.

Or at least, there wasn’t, but over the last few months, forces have been aligning to bring a business organization back to town. The benefits of a Chamber are obvious. While it can be hard for a lone business to raise issues at town hall, a business organization provides a unified voice with the town, with the province, to discuss issues affecting businesses in town. Once voice can sometime go unheard, but united, the businesses in town cannot be ignored.

And the Chamber becomes the main point of contact for new industry in town, which is a good thing. The District does its best to make sure that industrial projects use local contractors, local suppliers, but how do they know who does what in town? In the future, one phone call to the Chamber will answer all their questions.

For small one- or two-person businesses, one of the Chamber’s biggest benefits is group health and dental plans. These businesses are often not able to get benefits because they don’t have enough employees. But if you add together the eighty or so single-person businesses in Tumbler Ridge and get medical and dental together? For many, this is worth the cost of admission alone.

Ah yes, cost. What is the cost? Well, that hasn’t been formalized yet, but it will probably be based on a sliding scale. So it might cost a sole proprietorship around $125, including tax and membership in the BC Chamber of Commerce. For a company with 300 employees, this might get as high as $500.

I am, I should point out, not an impartial observer here. Back when the Chamber made its first comeback, about a dozen years ago now, I was at that first meeting. I joined that first board, though due to circumstances decided to leave before many of the events now famed in song, story and court documents.

It was, all in all, a fairly bad experience, and like many, it soured me on the idea of a Chamber. When the Chamber came around again, I was fairly stand-offish. Sure, I paid my dues, but only so I could get medical and dental. I didn’t want to get involved again.

But as time went on, I was starting to feel … lonely. Like I was trying to reinvent the wheel, when everyone else around me was doing the exact same thing. I wanted to talk to other business owners, tell them some of my ideas. Hear some of theirs. I wanted to share knowledge, or at least commiserate about what it was like trying to do business in Tumbler Ridge. I was reading some great books. I wanted to discuss some of the big ideas I was learning about marketing and social media.

But just as I was about to commit to getting involved, the Chamber folded. Again. But I still wanted to get involved, to talk, to share, to do. So when the District said they were willing to help get the Chamber on its feet, I was one of the first in line to get involved.

So take what I am saying with a grain of salt. I’m helping get this Chamber thing going, so when I say “the Chamber is a good thing for business in town,” don’t take that as from an impartial editor, but from an impassioned business owner.

I want to end with something that I wrote last year for Chamber week, which still applies this year: “without the active participation of the members who make up the Chamber of Commerce, any new Chamber is DOA. Oh, it might have the funding to keep the office open, and there might be hundreds of businesses who pay their annual membership and nothing more, but without the involvement of the local businesses, very little will come of it.

“So, let’s make a deal, you and me. If, no, let’s say when, the Chamber gets going again, let’s give it a fair chance to succeed or fail on its own merits, or lack thereof, knowing that anything laudable the Chamber has will be what we bring to it. And rather than sitting around, complaining about all the things the Chamber isn’t doing, let’s roll up our sleeves and say “well, if we want to see this done, there’s nobody better to do it.” “Because WE are the Chamber and without us, it has no heart, no soul, no hands or feet.”