On behalf of the Board of Directors, I am pleased to share with you this update. With the momentum created through active and diligent work, and reflecting on purposeful and meaningful working relationships with a number of partners, we have seen many positive outcomes. We have engaged with our fellow local Chambers and actively worked with the Wallaceburg Chamber of Commerce to continue our shared commitment of supporting issues impacting all of Chatham-Kent.
There are many reasons to celebrate 2017 and look forward to 2018. The Chatham-Kent Chamber continues to champion the voice of business. We carry on the tradition of showcasing “Feature Industry” where we have a glimpse of the “behind the scenes” activities that make manufacturing business successful. Possibly, you have attended Business After Hours which continues to be a much anticipated event, providing many businesses the opportunity to showcase themselves, grow their contacts and network with other businesses. We were particularly pleased to welcome Ontario Chamber of Commerce Interim President & CEO, Richard Koroscil, at our new business showcase in October. So many valuable connections are made at these events, and I am proud of our Business and Member Connections Committee for the tireless work planning and volunteering their assistance to help host these events.
Our Agriculture Committee was, once again, instrumental at planning and organizing a truly inspirational Guest Speaker in attaining Jay Blake. Jay spoke about perseverance and resiliency while never giving up on your dreams. After an industrial accident where Jay lost total vision and other key senses, he had the courageous and bold vision to start his own competitive race team, and now works as its Head Mechanic. It is a true demonstration of what’s possible if you’re willing to dream big and work hard for it.
Our alliance with Chatham-Kent Workforce Planning Board helped us ‘Feature’ Entrepreneurs of all ages and interests. It is stimulating to hear of the uniqueness and the determination of those that create their own jobs, living their dream – and contributing to the prosperity of Chatham-Kent. And, together with Resident Attraction and Retention, we showcased a number of Young Professionals and those embracing ‘baCK to Chatham-Kent’ momentum.
Of course, not everything in 2017 was easy. The Provincial Government swiftly passed legislation in Bill 148. The Chatham-Kent Chamber reacted quickly as your advocate. Our Government Affairs Committee co-ordinated efforts with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and we campaigned, called to action, pushed our opposition to the Bill and rallied in support of all businesses . We provided correspondence to our Premier urging consideration to the economic impact and viability of such quick implementation of these items, most notably the minimum wage increase. We partnered with the OCC to support the “Keep Ontario Working Coalition” to commission an independent analysis to better understand the economic impact of these changes. We shared that report which can be found on the Chatham-Kent Chamber website. While our advocacy work is not done, in order to support you and your business through Bill 148 implementation we are sharing information sessions and videos through our website to assist you through the challenges you may face.
We also hosted a roundtable with Minister of Energy, Glen Thibeault, and a roundtable session with our members around Workplace Fairness, Better Jobs relating to Bill 148. We further arranged for participation from our Board to represent Chatham-Kent at a Roundtable with Minister Leal, Minister for Small Business, as co-ordinated with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
We regularly met with our Municipal CAO to help align like actions to enhance Chatham-Kent, resulting in a strengthened relationship all around as we shared our common goals. We continue representation from our Board on the Chatham-Kent Community Leaders’ Cabinet and the Chatham-Kent Workforce Planning Board as we see these efforts of great importance to our Board and our members.
Through our Policy and Governance Committee, we re-examined our awards programs. Together with past judges, nominees and recipients, many months were invested to ensure we had a transparent process that could stand up to our Chamber Values. In the end, we sought that every award recipient could also stand proud, knowing their recognition was vetted through a thorough and fair process.
There continues to be a number of important files for us to work through in 2018. Whether it’s bridging the communication gap with government, our continued support for business through Bill 148, looming legalization of marijuana and work place safety, Ontario’s Energy Plan, the CK Community Energy Plan and our internal strategies where we evaluate, remain agile and add value to your membership.
Lastly, I want to thank you, our Members, for your contribution and support. You continue to give back to our community; we are grateful that you choose to open your doors and do your business right here in Chatham-Kent. We are all energized and enabled to bring to you another successful year and the best from the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce in 2018.