–Kerry Cavers, President, Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce
Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce terminates Community Service Agreement with the District of Sooke, effective immediately.
Dear Chamber Members, Business Community and the taxpayers of Sooke,
The Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors present at the July 2016 board meeting have voted to end the Community Service Agreement with the District of Sooke in order to focus on its four core purposes:
- To be a supportive resource for local businesses to achieve greater success;
- To foster positive business relationships with the community;
- To constructively influence public policy and governments in supporting free enterprise; and lastly,
- To facilitate new economic development opportunities.
Over the last three and a half years the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce has held this fee-for-service agreement with the District of Sooke to undertake economic development for Sooke. Each year the Chamber has received $28,150, roughly half of its budget, to:
- Identify, attract and pursue new economic ventures and business investment opportunities in the Sooke area, in order to broaden the commercial and industrial tax base of the district;
- Actively promote the economic opportunity of the Sooke area in other regions in order to attract new investment; and,
- Provide business information for the District to attract new economic development opportunities.
Consistent with the main principles above, the Chamber will execute those activities, as budget dictates, which include but are not limited to the following:
- Provide information to potential investors and help match investors with local investment opportunities.
- Participate, as budget permits, in external and regional marketing initiatives to attract new business ventures and capital to the Sooke area, after receiving approval of the District.
- Provide a referral service to federal, provincial, and municipal officials and community organizations.
In that time, the Chamber has successfully implemented and developed many economic development initiatives including the Town Centre Design Guidelines, the Newcomer’s Club and the Resident Relocation package. We held a successful Economic Development Symposium last fall that brought many of the key stakeholders of the Sooke Region together and we have continued the collaborative discussions throughout this year.
However, in this process, it has become clear the Chamber is ill equipped to be the lead driver of economic development in Sooke. In our research, we have found the average salary of an Economic Development Officer (EDO) to range from $65,000 to $100,000 per year for areas similar in size, economic maturity, and scope of need. They then can have budgets ranging from $50,000 upwards of $250,000 per year to execute an economic development plan. As a group of volunteers with limited time and resources, the Chamber Board is not in a position to be the originator of a comprehensive economic development plan that sufficiently meets the needs of the rapidly developing Sooke Region.
While the Community Service Agreement was an adequate solution to address Sooke’s economic development requirements in a depressed economy, the Chamber Board of Directors believe it is time for the assistance of a dedicated professional or group that has the knowledge and expertise to justly guide and shape the development of our beloved town.
Sooke is at a critical point in its growth and in order to successfully advance in a manner consistent with its small town charm and character the Chamber is proactively removing itself from this relationship with the District. Although the Chamber and its members have greatly benefited from this service agreement we feel ending it emphasizes our support of a complete economic development strategy.
Effective immediately, the Chamber is ending its Community Service Agreement and requests the remaining funds from 2016 and 2017 be re-allocated towards membership with the South Island Prosperity Project (formally known as YYJ Prosperity project) and retaining the services of an EDO or Economic Development Consultant.
In its realignment of priorities, the Chamber will be cancelling its involvement with the following initiatives set to take place in the balance of this year:
- Sooke Sunday Car Lot,
- Chamber Golf Tournament,
- Sooke Santa Parade, and
- the Sooke Salmon Festival.
The Board of Directors will use its best efforts to find other more appropriate groups to take over these events.
It is our intention that through this action the Chamber will become a better advocate and resource for our existing members and encourage greater involvement from the business community as a whole. It is our hope that terminating this fee-for-service agreement with the District helps the greater community of Sooke.
In the coming weeks we will be reaching out to our members to reconnect, listen, and learn. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions on how the Chamber can best support the businesses of Sooke please send an email to President@SookeRegionChamber.com.
I look forward to hearing from you.