Denny Warner wants to know what people think of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
Warner was named the new executive director of the Chamber August 14 and her first task is to send a questionnaire to their members. She is asking business owners and operators what their needs are and how the Chamber can better serve them.
It’s a big task for Warner’s first few weeks on the job, but not one that she’s unfamiliar with. Warner has been working part-time for the Chamber as a contract special events co-ordinator since 2010. More recently, she added some financial work for the Peninsula’s voice of business and has been in the office three days a week. It was only natural that when the position of executive director came up that she would throw her hat into the ring.
“The board wants to have a strong relationship with this position,” she explained, “sharing common goals. Member-driven organizations are having challenges and in the short term, we want to know more about and from our members.”
Warner comes with experience in the chamber world. She spent four years as executive director of the Vanderhoof chamber prior to moving to Vancouver Island.
“We had more members there,” she said, “but it was a very different community. Here, this place in unique and has very different challenges, especially with having to serve three municipalities.”
The differences also extend to industry — forestry is big in Vanderhoof while tourism plays the major role on the Saanich Peninsula. As well, there are challenges when it comes to the many different associations representing business on the Peninsula, the most recent being the creation of the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society (SBIAS). Warner said what the Chamber, with 355 members, and BIA do are not a duplication of services.
“The BIA goes a good job in marketing Sidney,” she explained. “Our organization serves business on the Peninsula, the business climate and local issues.”
That business climate of late, she continued, has been improving overall but added that really depends on the industry. Retail spaces for lease in downtown Sidney, she said, can be indicative of the local economy but they are not the whole picture. Warner said she has been hearing good things and tourist numbers at the Chamber-operated Visitor Centre on Beacon Avenue have been strong this summer.
Warner takes on the job nine months after Chris Fudge resigned to take a position with B.C. Transit on Nov. 22, 2013. Since then, the work was done by the Chamber’s office administrator Linda Duivenvoorden, who has since taken another job.
The Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce is gearing up for a series of big events this fall. Their annual golf tournament takes place Sept. 9, followed by the Crystal Awards for business excellence on Oct. 23.
The Chamber is also setting up all candidates forums for the 2014 municipal election in Sidney, Central Saanich and North Saanich. Tentatively, the Sidney forum will be Nov. 4 at the Mary Winspear Centre.