Health of business on the Saanich Peninsula is behind a chamber of commerce joint effort with the District of Central Saanich starting up this spring.
The Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce is taking up a meeting with two Central Saanich municipal councillors to talk about economic development in that community. Ian Brown, president of the chamber, says it’s an opening to explore the issue throughout the entire Peninsula.
“Councillor Ryan Windsor raised the idea to set up an economic development group,” Brown said. “And we will be meeting with them.”
Brown said in recent years, a lot of information has been bandied about on local issues such as workforce housing, a need for more doctors and matters relating to the local economy. What is needed, he continued, is data.
“Communities have talked to us in anecdotes, observations and have reacted with interventions,” Brown said. “We have to start thinking about … solid information on which to base decisions.”
An economic development partnership is one place to start collecting that data, he said. Once the chamber meets with Central Saanich, Brown said his hope is they can do the same in Sidney and North Saanich.
“There needs to be a solid assessment of what’s out there and what’s needed.”
The outcome Brown said he’s after includes a core of information that all parties can use to discuss regional issues. That is where decision-making needs to start, he added.
This level of cooperation with local municipalities comes as the chamber creates closer ties with the Sidney Business Improvement Association (SBIA). The SBIA’s new executive director — and part events coordinator with the Town of Sidney — will be based out of the chamber-run Visitor Centre on Beacon Avenue. The chamber had asked the Town for permission to move into the building themselves, but Brown said it wasn’t going to be big enough.
That proposed move came during a period of uncertainty for the chamber. Brown said that came up as the chamber looked to save money in the wake of diminishing memberships and financial trouble. Brown said the chamber lost members when the SBIA came into being last year. Numbers have rebounded a bit, he said, but admitted the chamber has had some challenges.
They lost their last executive director last year and have decided not to replace the position. By using the remaining office staff and volunteer time from board members, Brown said the chamber has saved money. They are also no longer operating the Pat Bay Highway visitor centre.
“We are trying to be responsible, financially,” he said.
The recent partnerships help matters as the chamber looks to expand its influence and activity around economic development on the Peninsula.