The activities of the Antigonish Chamber of Commerce in 2013 and so far this year have been driven, largely, by the Membership Survey that was distributed to our Chamber members this past May. This survey provided us with our members’ priorities, and as a result, a focus for our board.
The survey told us that municipal relations was their number one priority, with wayfinding also being a major concern.
We continued our quarterly meetings with both the Town and the County of Antigonish this past year and used the information from the survey to help craft those meetings. I feel that there has been progress in those meetings, and in the issue of the working relationship between the Town and the County overall, though there is much work still to do.
As it pertains to wayfinding, the Chamber offered a letter of support to the Town for funding to assist in signage, and it was good to see that be fruitful, with Phase 2 of that initiative now complete. Phase 2 of the Town’s wayfinding initiative also contains County attractions, and it was encouraging that both municipals were able to collaborate on this. There is a sizable dearth of wayfinding signage in the County, and this is something that I hope will be addressed as soon as possible.
The strike at St.F.X. and the first summer since the twinning of the Trans Canada Highway were two events that were of great concern in the local economy. The true impact of both are not yet known in full, and I am interested to see the final numbers.
The Chamber’s financial position is improved over this past year, and the success of the Chamber’s brochure and the Chamber Golf Classic were largely the drivers of this success. I feel that there is room for both of these initiatives to grow, and that will make them even more successful in the future.
Communication was another item of importance identified by the board, and while there have been some successes on this front (the member survey, the Chamber Made column in the Casket, interviews, speaking engagements, etc), there is much that didn’t get accomplished.
Our social media activity (Facebook, Twitter, etc) has not been as strong as I would hope, and most importantly, we have not done a good enough job in relaying the results of our meetings with the Town and County quarterly meetings. This is vital going forward if the Chamber wants its members to know the hard work it is doing on its behalf.
While we did not reach the target we set for new members this year, we have managed to increase our membership, and I am optimistic that this trend will continue to improve our operation.
The Chamber has invested in new software and can now process credit cards, and it is your board’s hope that this will aid in providing service to our members and also help control our accounts receivables, which has been an area of concern for some time.
As our Executive Director did with the Town CAO when he arrived in Antigonish, she is currently personally touring with the new Clerk-Treasurer to personally introduce him to businesses in the area. This has been a good opportunity for business to provide direct questions and concerns, while also acquainting the Clerk-Treasurer to Antigonish.
Looking forward, it is obvious Nova Scotia is at a crossroads. One Nova Scotia’s final report on the province’s economy and future has just been released, and it is very sobering indeed. If Nova Scotia is going to have anything chance of a prosperous future, hard work is going to have to be done, and it is going to have to start now.
In last year’s President’s Report, our Past President mentioned the concern she had about the closing of the Regional Development Authorities (RDAs). It is one year later, and this economic development gap has yet to be filled. The “collective effort of key stakeholders” still hasn’t begun, and our time is running short.
The Antigonish Chamber of Commerce intends to be a part of the solution, and it calls upon its members, the municipal, provincial, and federal governments, and every Nova Scotian to be a part of the solution as well.
In conclusion, I am very proud of the work that your Chamber Board has done this past year, and I thank our Executive Director and all board members for their hard work. It has been an honour to look alongside them, and I look forward to working with the new board this year.
W. Patrick Curry
President – Antigonish Chamber of Commerce