Cornwall Chamber of Commerce Shutters Fall Show as Crumbling Continues Under Lezlie Strasser – July 25, 2013

Cornwall Chamber of Commerce Shutters Fall Show as Crumbling Continues Under Lezlie Strasser – July 25, 2013
Lezlie Strasser - Director Cornwall & Area Chamber of Commerce
Lezlie Strasser – Director Cornwall & Area Chamber of Commerce


CFN–  Karma is a bitch they say.   They really do.   But what is Karma really?  Surely if you do the right things enough times mathematically things work out?

Of course the opposite would be true to.   If you don’t perform best practices.  If you are not good at your job.  If you consistently make poor choices or consistently get plastered at lunch you just don’t get the best results?

And in business if you spend more than you make you generally don’t move forward.

A good Chamber of Commerce is a huge opportunity for local businesses to work together to help a community grow.   However when any group goes sour, gets corrupted, or falls into the control of a few that practice exclusivity you get to be at the bottom of the Communities in Boom report by the CFIB.

Is the Chamber’s repeated failures all Ms Strasser’s fault?   Not really.  It’s more about the Business Culture or lack therof in Cornwall where most businesses really don’t  make business first decisions in many cases.  Cronyism, bullying, cliques are not the making of a vibrant business community.

Even the Chamber itself doesn’t use best practices.  A former Chair gets a cut rate lease in the Chamber building while getting contracts to provide services.    Is that best for the Chamber and its membership?

The thing about business though is that over the long term the client always at the end of the day decides where they will spend their dollars.

The Spring show which has been in steady decline with little to no innovation led the Chamber to go hat in hand and ask the city for a 20% discount on the rental fee of the Civic Complex; an odd move when you want the City to cut taxes?       Instead of facing the challenges of how to make the show better the Chamber decided to beg for a fee reduction which sadly they were given; most likely the Fall show being a factor.

The Chamber just pulled the plug on the Fall show.

Bizfest brain Joey Gault seated right of Mayor Bob Kilger

Bizfest has been their largest disaster this decade.  Originally a five day  event that was well supported by sponsors but not by the public the disaster lost money including the gaffe of their budget being passed without the largest line item being accounted for.

That led to a 3 day event last year and this year’s planned event will be a single event, but now sponsorship has dried up.

Now it’s easy to point fingers.   Some would say what could the Chamber do to be better?

Well here’s a partial list.

Be truly more inclusive.   The culture at Chamber events seems to be the same cliquesters or their younger generation.   IE you lose one Corus radio rep and replace that person with another.   The damage caused to the Chamber during the years that Scott Armstrong from Corus Radio and Rick Shaver from the Seaway News may not actually be able to be repaired.

When I first ran for the Chamber board I was thanked after and told that I had not won.  When I asked for a vote count they said they didn’t provide that information.

Thanks to yours truly that process has changed, but personally; in my opinion; I doubt the accuracy or integrity of the process.

Actually provide service to small business.   Why not support an incubator?  There’s a big Remax for lease sign on the Chamber.  WHy not take some of that space to help launch businesses in Cornwall?  Why not set up a micro finance program?  Why not at least have the debate?  Small business is the backbone of any Chamber of Commerce.  Where are the initiatives?  Even Bizfest was scheduled during weekday business hours.  How addled was that?

If something doesn’t work change how it’s being done.  If that doesn’t work change who’s doing it.

While a member of the board another director shared that it’d be too expensive to replace Ms Strasser as horrible as her performance was.   That kind of thinking feeds into the problem in that if Ms Strasser’s management was costing the Chamber money they’d never have the funds to replace her.

Have services contracted by the Chamber open to all members.  How would you feel if you were a real estate member or computer services firm and always saw Webtech or Remax getting all or most of the biz from the Chamber?

Mobilize in the community.  One of the biggest complaint of Pitt Street retailers is that they don’t benefit from Lift Off or events.

Sadly in this scribblers opinion the Chamber needs new blood.  No more Lezlie Strasser’s and Mike Metcalfe’s.   If the Chamber wants to thrive and grow they need new non-clique blood running things.    It’s why I won’t be a member until they clean house.

This Chamber’s future is bleak right now.   It seems that they can’t run events; don’t currently provide service to its members, are struggling to replace lost revenue from the Service Ontario outlet that the late Joe Gunn started over 25 years ago, and has been the cash cow keeping the Chamber alive all these decades.     The building itself is rumored to be on the market as well, but the current slump in Cornwall Real Estate doesn’t bode well for a large return; especially with all the building issues and flooding.

With a weak board should Cornwall business expect any changes soon?   Not really.

It’s sad.   Really we can do better.    We will need to do better if we want a strong local economy.   Is it time for Cornwall Business to truly start working together and supporting each other?

What do you think CFN viewers?  You can post your comments below.

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