Spend Local, Buy Local, Advertise Local – What do we want from a Chamber of Commerce? – Editorial by Jamie Gilcig – January 20, 2011 – Cornwall Ontario

Cornwall ON – I belong to the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce.  I think I’m a member of Team Cornwall still too?

What should an organization like a Chamber of Commerce be?    Well it can be many things, but since this is an editorial and it’s my pic on the left I think I’ll talk about what it means to me.

I love the whole concept of a group of local businesspeople coming together and building on common ground to make their local economy stronger.

A hundred years ago Chambers of Commerce were very different in many ways than they are today.   Nowadays most cities have Economic Development departments and fulfill many of the operations that old time Chambers of Commerce do.

Here in Cornwall we have a very strong Economic Development team; such that I’ve heard people in other municipalities talk about it in glowing terms and talk of emulating what Cornwall has achieved.

We have Team Cornwall here that essentially is doing part of what a Chamber of Commerce does too.   So what should our Chamber of Commerce be doing and what roles should it fill in the community?

I like the Shop at Home for the Holiday concept.    I fully believe in Buy Local, Spend Local, and of course Advertise Local.   How successful that type of mentality is can really be a deal breaker for a small city or town.  More businesses and organizations though I think need to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

If we look West, towards Kingston, which many in Cornwall seem to want to emulate, you can see how that city has faired in preserving its core business, allowing local independent business to grow, and of course the devastating infusion of Big Box type stores.

Brockville has failed at its experiment in that their big box development really hurt their downtown core from property values to life style choices.  An empty down town core is like ripping the soul out of a city.

They say a city’s downtown is its heart; its soul.   Well an organization like a Chamber of Commerce could  have a role to play in that.   A core of a city that has strong businesses, especially locally owned ones, with good places to live, make it very attractive.

Denis Carr and Heart of the City have done some good work.  Gay Adams and the DBIA have done some good work too.

Cornwall has lost much if not just about all of its heritage.   You don’t see too many old stone homes left.  You don’t see many of those that are left being productively used.   Buildings here seem to be “Modernized” for future development and that’s not always bad, but then again it’s not always good.

So what do we want as business owners from a Chamber of Commerce?  I know for me I want an organization that takes a strong position on supporting and helping to grow local businesses and services.  I don’t want lip service.  I want to see action.

I love the Spring and Fall home show and think both should be enhanced.  If the talent isn’t currently on staff at the chamber I don’t think the solution is cancelling one show.  I think we need to either hire new staff or replace old staff to achieve our goals.   If we have enough money to fund breakfasts to chat with our MP we should have enough to fund a show, and do it right.

I want my Chamber to advocate for my business, not just butt slap politicians that are our drinking buddies.    Today I received an email from the Chamber, and the first thing I read was the Chamber’s President, the guy running a Quebec owned weekly here in Cornwall that features this politician, alerting the membership to a free breakfast paid for by the Chamber to hear this Politician.

Is the Chamber here to pump up politicians or advocate for its members?    Who’s paying the tab for this free breakfast?  What do members have to gain by it?   Does partisan politics belong in a chamber of commerce?  And depending on your answer does it belong in our Chamber?

You see I’m new to Cornwall.    I’m not one of the “Old Boys” as so many refer to certain cliques in this city.    I guess I think differently, but then I go to events and I see and hear things too, as of course do many of the “Old Boys” who may think that nobody notices some of the ways that groups conduct themselves.   People do.   That’s why there’s so much apathy in the world.

Less people vote; less people participate when they feel that there may be crony ism, or corruption, or even a hint of injustice.  (no Lezlie I’m not casting aspersions here so don’t get frantic and start trying to revoke my membership again!)  I can tell those reading this that there are a lot of businesses struggling through this recession and we all need to pull together and work through this.

We don’t need visits from politicians that rarely bring anything to the table to help small independent  business.    We need constructive focus and planning on how to improve business for those that conduct it in our area.  We need to work together to help make our businesses viable and better able to compete against these “Big Box” stores no matter what type they are because if we can mix local and big box we all win.

And that’s where the opportunities for a good Chamber of Commerce can come into play.   That’s the challenge today for this Chamber of Commerce, and in the end for all of our businesses in 2011.

Jamie Gilcig – Proudly local Cornwall Business Owner and Editor of The Cornwall Free News

(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of the Cornwall Free News, their staff, or sponsors.)

James MoakHomestead Organics

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