Trail & District Chamber of Commerce: Meeting offers ideas, discussion

Air travel access and the local impact of industry in the north were on the agenda at Tuesday’s regional Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Air travel access and the local impact of industry in the north were on the agenda at Tuesday’s regional Chamber of Commerce meeting in Cranbrook.

Along with the Trail and District Chamber of Commerce, representatives from chambers in Rossland, Castlegar, Nelson, Cranbrook, Fernie, Sparwood, Elkford, Radium and Golden attended the meeting.

Trail’s executive director Norm Casler, had a seat at the table and he says the number one benefit of a regional meeting is being able to use other chambers as a sounding board.

“We can get together as a region and collaborate and talk about strengthening our network as a whole,” he said.

“It is an opportunity to have a round table discussion about what is working and what is not working for other chambers.

“It is a great time for us to talk about great practices for chambers in terms of fundraisers, advocacy works and common issues that are facing all of us in the region.”

Some of those issues affecting the region include the exodus of skilled labour workers to northern industry.

“People are leaving not only our community, but the southern rural communities, in droves to go up north and get the big jobs,” said Casler. “There is industry, not only in Trail, but really throughout the Kootenays and across southern B.C. that are lacking and they are having a hard time retaining those workers.”

Discussions also centred around access to air space in the Kootenay region when it comes to industry and tourism.

“It is a fairly complicated issue, but the bottom line is that we want to make sure that it is as accessible as possible for workers, tourists and visitors to get in and out of all of our communities,” said Casler.

The main goal of the meeting was to discuss with other regions how to best represent each area in attendance.

“There are opportunities out there and we all need to get together, find and create those opportunities in our own communities and promote them,” explained Casler. “I think that as a region and as a whole across the province, we just have to try and make sure that the southern rural communities, and in particular Route 3, don’t get forgotten about.”

A spokesperson from the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce sat in on the meeting and Casler says it is vital for the region to have a voice on the provincial stage. The chambers around the table will be collaborating to make sure that voice is heard.

“We are going to look into developing a couple of policy papers on (air access, northern industry and tourism) and these will be papers that we can put together collaboratively and pass along to the B.C. Chamber of Commerce for their next annual general meeting, which isn’t until the spring,” he said. “Sometimes local businesses are not quite aware that we are at the provincial table. We are bringing issues forward and dealing with provincial issues that affect businesses across British Columbia.”