One Voice Many Songs
"A chamber of commerce (or board of trade) is a form of business network, for example, a local organisation of businesses whose goal is to further the interests of businesses. Business owners in towns and cities form these local societies to advocate on behalf of the business community." Wikipedia
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If you've been following the events of the past year and knew about the demise of the Canmore Business and Tourism (CBT) (see the video here) you will think that the voice of business in the town of Canmore is no more. Let's find out.
We've attended a recent gathering of some of the town's business folk at an event referred to as "Conversation Cafe". It is a continuation of one of the CBT initiatives. Since the demise of CBT, it is spearheaded by Stephanie O'Brien of Carmella Consulting. We wanted to find out what they have in mind to get an organisation off the ground with the goal of representing the interests of businesses in the town and in the rest of the Bow Valley.
It is accepted that businesses in the Bow Valley will do well with a unified voice. Something like a Chamber of Commerce. However, we've discovered the valley is already a crowded place for voices professing to be speaking on behalf of business.
There is the Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association (BOWDA), which is a membership driven networking and advocacy group focused on the needs of the building & development industry in Canmore and the Bow Valley. Membership according to their website is at 210. There is the Canmore Downtown Business Association. The Canmore Hotel and Lodging Association represent more than 65% of the Canmore and area hotel and lodging properties. Then we have Banff where you will find organisations such as the Banff and Lake Louise Hospitality Association and the Banff Hospitality Collective. The Banff Hotels Association and the very well funded and high profile Banff Lake Louise Tourism destination marketing organisation.
I've not even touched Google to find out if there are any other Associations, Organizations, Collectives, Lobbyers, Investors, Benefactors or Instigators around, which may also profess to represent the interest of "businesses in the Bow Valley."
Back to Stephanie and her group of supporters for a Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce. Suffice to say; the group has their work cut out for them. Getting a Chamber of Commerce off the ground may be a noble idea, but it may not be as easy as they may think. Others have tried before.
It is our opinion that to have Chamber of Commerce succeed in the Bow Valley, all the various organisations that profess to represent interests of members or taxpayers for destination marketing, will have to come together to support the initiative. Keep in mind that many of these organisations are already well established with a solid track record for their membership.
A newcomer to "furthering the interest of businesses" may not be as welcome as everybody thinks. Add to this that the local councils of these towns already have their hands full with balancing competing agendas from all directions and interested parties. An effort to herd cats sounds like a more feasible endeavour.
Without all round buy-in, the initiative is at risk of being a "filler" organisation. With "filler" we mean that the organisation will try to represent businesses overall, but end up representing the unrepresented instead.
The effort will also require a strong, respected and inclusive leader from the Bow Valley. A person revered in Banff and Canmore. Someone who can broker cooperation between all the business associations and still succeeds to motivate affiliation with yet another "uber" organisation: A Bow Valley Chamber of Commerce. If you are this leader, then the time is now to step forward.
We applaud the enthusiasm of Stephanie and her collaborators as we continue to follow the journey to establish a strong voice for all businesses in the Bow Valley and in particular: Canmore, Alberta.
Hendrik van Wyk
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